Unsung Heroes: Celebrating Family Caregivers
Caregivers. There are about 65 million people in the United States who identify themselves as caregivers.
On average, these unsung heroes spend 20 hours per week tending to friends or family members who are chronically ill or have disabilities.
November is National Family Caregiverís Month, and we owe our gratitude to the kind souls who sacrifice so much for the benefit of others, often without acknowledgment.
The Caregiving Profile
- Sixty-five percent of older people with long-term care needs rely solely on family and friends for assistance.
- Women tend to outlive their spouses and have less in terms of retirement savings and pensions, and are more apt to require long-term care themselves.
- The average caregiver is age 46, female, married, and working outside the home, earning about $35,000.
- Women provide the majority of hands-on care and advocacy for family and friends. Informal care provided by women is estimated to be worth about $148 billion to $188 billion annually.
- Caregiving on a regular basis often leads to lost wages or forced early retirement.
- Many caregivers also pay for supplies and assistive devices for their loved ones.
- The stress of caregiving in the long-term can result in higher incidence of anxiety, depression, or other health issues. Caregivers may also neglect their own health.
Next: How You Can Help a Caregiver
How You Can Help a Caregiver
- Ask how they are doing personally… and listen without judgement. Encourage them to talk about themselves.
- Offer to step in and relieve them of their duties for a few hours.
- Offer to run errands while you are out.
- Prepare a meal.
- Help to find caregiver information and resources, both online and locally.
- Donít wait to be asked — reach out to caregivers often. Rather than a vague, ďLet me know if I can do anything,Ē make a specific offer of assistance that is more likely to be accepted.
National Family Caregiver Month
The National Family Caregiverís Association (NFCA) observes Family Caregiver Month each November to bring attention to and advocate for public policy to address the myriad of issued faced by caregivers, including coordination of medical information, Medicare payment systems, and education of health care professionals who deal with caregivers.
The NFCA encourages caregivers to contact federal and state legislators to offer first-hand accounts of the reality of caregiving. Vist USA.govís Caregiver Resources for more information regarding policy and support.
“The true strength of the American family finds its roots in an unwavering commitment to care for one another.” – President Barack Obama, 2009
To caregivers around the world… a heartfelt thank you.
Writer Ann Pietrangelo is a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Authorís Guild. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo