Every November, the president of the United States proclaims that month as National Family Caregivers Month. It is designated as time to thank, support, educate and celebrate the more than 90 million family caregivers across the country who provide $450 billion in “free” care-giving services.
It is hard to believe that two out of every five adults are family caregivers, that 39 percent of all adult Americans are caring for a loved one who is sick or disabled (up from 30 percent in 2010). And this is not to mention that there are at least another 10 million people caring for loved ones with special needs who are younger than 18. So if you count yourself as one of these millions of Americans, you are definitely not alone.
Being a family caregiver can be a very lonely endeavor, especially if you have little or no chance for social interaction with others. But in the not-too-distant future, virtually every family in America will be involved in some form of family care giving.
Experts predict that the nation will need one million more home-care workers by 2017 and as many as three million more by 2030, when all of an expected 78 million baby boomers will be older than 65. Right now, these home-care workers or non-medical home-care aides come into the homes of the disabled or older adults and help with bathing, dressing, meal preparation and everyday chores.
Unlike medical home health aides, they don’t do physical therapy or handle medications. Many work through home-care agencies, while others work directly for families. Most seniors pay out of pocket or tap their long-term health insurance policies for the in-home care.
The demand for in-home care is growing because the number of individuals 65 and older in the U.S is expected to double in the next 20 years, and many seniors prefer to stay at home rather than move to a nursing facility. Also, more families are relying on paid caregivers because more women work than in previous generations and cannot attend to elderly parents during the day. And it’s not just women doing the care giving. Men are now almost as likely as women to say they are family caregivers (37 percent of men; 40 percent of women).
As we observe National Family Caregivers Month, we honor those family caregivers who take time to improve the lives of family and friends. Family caregivers exemplify the true spirit of compassion by providing support to their loved ones and assisting them with their everyday activities and special needs. These selfless people must often make great personal sacrifices to maintain the care and support their family and friends require.
It is at this time that we want to remind caregivers to share the responsibilities. It is also a good time for others who are not caregivers to think about helping the caregivers they know or even to consider a career as a caregiver.
We all have a lot on our own plates. But know that by reaching out and letting someone know that you are there to help and listen, you are taking a good first step. The second step is not to wait for a caregiver to ask for help but to offer your assistance and insist on it. Thank you caregivers.
Shoshana Krupp is managing partner at Elite HomeCare Services. SCENEior focuses on the benefits and challenges of growing older.