AFC Promotes Well Being during Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and a regional non-profit program is marking the occasion by promoting caregiver well-being.

The Adult Family Care (AFC) program provides support for more than 250 family caregivers in the greater Boston area, and will provide care packages for its caregivers during the month as a show of appreciation for all that they do, explained AFC Program Director Jeanne Leyden.

Jeanne Leyden (left) and Melissa Guevara display items from the caregiver appreciation packages that Adult Family Care is distributing as part of National Family Caregivers Month. The program serves more than 250 caregivers across the Greater Boston Area.

“It’s a special thank-you to all of our caregivers for their continued dedication in providing care for their loved ones,” said Leyden.

Wrapped in an agency tote bag, the packages will include a stress ball and pamphlets with tips for avoiding common caregiver pitfalls, such as isolation and stress.

The gift bags were inspired by the theme of National Family Caregivers Month 2016, which is “Take Care to Give Care.” The theme underscores some of the unique challenges that put the nation’s 90 million family caregivers at higher risk for health issues, according to a release from the Caregiver Action Network (CAN).

“Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also physically and emotionally demanding,” said the release. “Only by taking care of yourself can you be strong enough to take care of your loved one.”

According to information provided by CAN, caregivers are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and one in five caregivers admit they have sacrificed their own health while caring for a loved one. The organization advised healthy diet and regular respite as two important steps to avoid common problems.

AFC is a MassHealth-funded program that’s dedicated to helping people provide the best possible care at home, by providing compensation, ongoing training and two weeks of paid time off annually.

The program is provided at no cost to the person receiving care, provided they are eligible for MassHealth Standard or Commonhealth and have a chronic medical or psychiatric diagnosis that necessitates assistance with at least one of the following: bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring between positions, ambulating or eating.

Caregivers must be able to meet those needs and live in the same home as the person receiving care. Friends and family are eligible to become live-in caregivers—but legal guardians and spouses are not.

National Family Caregivers Month was launched by CAN in 1994, and has received a Presidential Proclamation annually since 1997. The month is dedicated to raising awareness about caregiver issues, increasing support for family caregivers, and celebrating their efforts.

Adult Family Care is a non-profit program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services that supports in-home caregivers across the Greater Boston, North Shore, and Merrimack Valley areas. For more information call 617-628-2601, or follow AFC on Twitter and Facebook.