November is National Family Caregivers Month

As the election dust settles and President Obama prepares for his second term in office, let’s look at the Presidential Proclamation he signed on November 1, declaring November 2012 as National Family Caregivers’ Month. The president put forth the proclamation in order to acknowledge the selfless efforts of caregivers and “help caregivers access services, provide quality support, and reinforce their support through respite care options.”

According to the National Family Caregivers Association, President Clinton signed the first presidential proclamation in 1997 and every president since - Democrat and Republican alike - has issued an annual proclamation appreciating family caregivers.

Family caregiving is non-partisan. As our population — Democrats, Republicans, third and fourth parties alike — ages, the need for care grows. Most times, that care begins at home and most times, the first caregiver is a family caregiver.

In trying to get a snapshot of today’s family caregiver, my research took me back to a 2009 report published by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP and funded by MetLife Foundation. This companion report focused on those providing care for someone age 50 or over. Statistics in that report showed that:
  • 89% of caregivers are assisting relatives, who is most often the caregiver’s mother (36%).
  • Over half (61%) of family caregivers have other full- or part-time employment.
  • Family caregivers provide an average of 19 hours of care per week.
According to the 2010 paper, Estimating the Impact of Caregiving and Employment on Well-Being. Outcomes & Insights in Health Management, “Unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S. “

The stress and responsibility of caring for seniors at home can make caregiving feel like a full-time job in and of itself. As a nation, we need to champion flexibility in the workplace. Caregiver burnout is a real concern, so family caregivers should seek support through respite care. We suggest utilizing a quality home care agency for your family’s intermittent care needs.

Are you a family caregiver to a senior? Are you charged with spousal care and find that you yourself might benefit from some caregiving as well? Do you find yourself part of the “sandwich generation”, caring for both children and aging parents? If you are otherwise employed, does your employer make special concessions for your situation, allowing you to come in late, leave early, or take time off for caregiving?

We at want to advocate for you. Which existing programs make your life easier? What programs would you like to see put in place to assist in alleviating the overwhelming tasks and concerns associated with family caregiving? Help us to help you make your voices heard so that the appreciation and support of caregivers during Family Caregivers’ Month can extend throughout the year.


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