"There are four kinds of people in this world:
those who have been caregivers,
those who currently are caregivers,
those who will be caregivers,
and those who will need caregivers."
~ Rosalynn Carter**
November is National Family Caregiver Month. It is a time to honor caregivers and recognize their importance and contribution.
Often a person becomes a caregiver by circumstance because a loved one becomes injured or ill. In 2007, between 34 and 52 million family caregivers were working to ensure their loved ones are safe, clean, and fed, including health activities such as intravenous medications. One out of every five Americans is a caregiver. They may be either full or part time, in the home or even long distance. These numbers are carers of adults and not of children who have limited abilities.
Conservatively speaking, family caregiving represents a yearly average value of $375 billion unpaid compensation. This compensation is based on population structure and cultural and economic variations among states. To put it in perspective, that’s more than federal spending for Medicaid. Statistics referenced are based on an AARP article.
Unlike professional caregivers, family carers sometimes reduce hours or quit jobs to work as volunteers. They lose wages, health benefits, retirement and Social Security benefits. Sometimes they give up the life they used to have and lose the freedom to have a private life because the caregiver is needed 24 hours a day.
Author Alix Kates Shulman who was caring for her husband said,
"I’m certainly not suggesting that the rewards of love can excuse society’s scandalous failure to support—financially and otherwise—the huge army of family caregivers who work for nothing and even impoverish themselves to care for their loved ones.”
Caring.com and National Alliance of Caregiving ran a poll of family caregivers asking what they would like the President to know. They planned to present the results to the Health Care Policy Working Group in the Obama administration. Tax relief was the top priority with 39% of the respondents. Medicare relief received 26%.
The current version of the health care act includes an increase in Medicare tax and a tax on insurance policies starting 2018.
When a family member or dear friend is in need, many people jump in to help increase their quality of life. However, there may be problems. Rudy from Italy sent me a message asking for help. He did not know me, but he needed help and he saw a piece I wrote about my caregiver. He told me he was frustrated because his wife who has MS was in pain, and he did not know what to do.
Rudy had identified a common problem. As a family caregiver begins to assume responsibilities, he or she often does not know what to do or how to do it. There are also difficulties with planning. The goal of the caregiver is to tend to the patient’s quality of life, but they often forget to tend to their own. Caregivers are at high risk of experiencing depression.
Caring for a chronically ill person is a burden. The National Family Caregiver Association provides help and support for caregivers. Especially this month, they help us to recognize the contribution and value of family caregivers.
Caring for our caregivers is the right thing to do.
Notes and Links:
National Respite Coalition News.
Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project - all kinds of information about the act, including a summary, and links associted with the act and with the Chapel Hill Respite Programs
Track the bill
History of the act, including links to related bills
National Family Caregivers Association summary of the act and other NFCA links
Family Caregiving Resources
List ofsome organizations that help find respite care around the country
Published On: November 18, 2010