Although November is designated as National Caregivers Month although for anyone involved in the caregiving process, it is a year ‘round task when it comes to caring for frail, elderly or disabled friends or family members. The term caregiver means “anyone who provides assistance to someone else who is, in some degree, incapacitated and needs help: a husband who has suffered a stroke; a wife with Parkinson’s disease; a mother-in-law with cancer; a grandfather with Alzheimer’s disease…” according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.
The Alliance also notes that “family caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of uncompensated care to loved ones annually.” Many senior organizations also note that family caregivers will remain the largest source of unpaid family caregivers in the United States. Given the advances in healthcare and medical treatments, many seniors are living much longer and in many situations, the family has taken on the role of caregiver rather than admitting loved ones to nursing home or assisted living care.
Caregiving By The Numbers
Reports and statistics compiled by various groups in the country point to these trends in caregiving in the United States:
• More women than men are involved in caring for an aging relative. Of those it’s been found that close to 35% of those individuals are caring for two or more family members.
• The average age of the female caregiver is 48. Although the average age of caregivers is 48, there are many caregivers that are, themselves, older adults (age 65 and older) and of those caregivers, close to one-third of them is in fair to poor health themselves.
• There are close to 66 million caregivers in the US and those count for up to 30% of the population that are involved in caring for an aged or ill relative.
There are many programs available to provide support for caregivers. The support ranges from information on available adult services in a specific part of the country, to counseling for the caregiver, support groups, training for caregivers and respite services.
How Can You Celebrate A Caregiver?
There are many ways in which you can “celebrate” a caregiver in your life or in your family. These ideas are ideal to put into practice not only during the month of November, but throughout the year. Being a caregiver is a sometimes thankless task and many caregivers are not comfortable reaching out and asking for a helping hand. How can you help? Here are some ideas:
• Offer to help out a caregiver. Whether it’s helping to prepare a meal or two, cleaning the house, running errands, doing yard work, or offering to sit with the seniors in their care so they can take a few hours, or a day, off will welcomed and appreciated.
• Host a get together for caregivers in your family.
• Contact a local community or senior center in your area and ask about hosing a Caregivers Awareness event.
• Send a card or a gift basket to a caregiver.
• Use social media to prompt your elected officials to promote legislation aimed at developing family-friendly caregiver policies
The numbers show that the aging population relies on family caregivers. Take time throughout the year to recognize their contributions.