Compliments of The Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Family members, friends, and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.
President Barack Obama, NFC Month Proclamation 2012
The words of President Obama remind us how important the caregivers are who devote their time and energy to care for family members, friends, and even neighbors. Although we should express our thanks and gratitude to these humble heroes every day of the year, we all have a special opportunity to honor these selfless individuals during “National Family Caregiver Month”.
Caregiver Facts and Figures
Every day across America there are over 90 million family caregivers taking care of loved ones who might otherwise be forced to leave their home and enter a long-term care facility. These caregivers are not paid for their time nor are they acknowledged with accolades or awards. In fact, memory loss caused by dementia means that many of them are not even recognized by the individual for whom they are providing care. Consider some of the facts and figures relating to family caregivers in the U.S.:
- For every person suffering with Alzheimer’s, it is estimated that there are 1 to 4 family caregivers providing care.
- For Alzheimer patients alone, over 18 billion hours of unpaid care is given each year.
- Caregivers provide over 40 billion hours of unpaid care each year.
- Family caregivers spend over $5,000 a year, on average, caring for a loved one.
The Cost to Caregivers
Family caregivers provide care without any expectation of receiving pay for the care they give. However, what about the cost of that care in terms of their own health, financial struggles, and overall suffering? That is what the theme for the 2016 National Family Caregiver Month is intended to highlight – “Take Care to Give Care.” In order to care for someone else, you must first take care of yourself. The stress of providing care, often to terminally ill loved ones, can manifest itself both physically and emotionally in the caregiver. Not surprisingly, one out of five family caregivers admits to sacrificing their own health in order to care for a loved one. As a result, caregivers are twice as likely to suffer from depression and are at an increased risk for suffering from a wide variety of other chronic health conditions as well.
Taking Care of the Caregiver
One of the goals of National Family Caregiver Month is to highlight the sacrifice caregivers make and to encourage everyone involved to help care for the caregivers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging, provides funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), which in turn provides grants to individual states to “fund a range of supports that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.” Services offered through the NFCSP program include:
- Information to caregivers about available services,
- Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to the services,
- Individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training,
- Respite care, and
- Supplemental services, on a limited basis
Celebrating National Family Caregiver Month
In celebration of National Family Caregiver Month, do something thoughtful for someone you know who is a caregiver. The possibilities are endless; however, some suggestions include:
- Takeover, or assist, in the caregiving for a day or two – or as long as you can. You do not need any special skills – just a willingness to pitch in and show up.
- Provide ready to eat meals for the caregiver’s family. Having to cook for their own family after spending an entire day providing care can be exhausting.
- Give the caregiver a gift certificate for a massage or a spa day. Caregivers rarely spend money on themselves nor take the time to do things like enjoy a day of pampering.
- Gather some volunteers and show up for a “home improvement day.” Things around the house that need attention are often put on the back burner by caregivers because there simply isn’t time to get them done.
- Start a funding campaign. Caregivers spend their own money on everything from toiletries to transportation costs. Go online and start a “Go Fund Me” or simply start calling family members and ask them to pitch in for a “caregiver expense fund.”
In honor of National Family Caregiver Month, we wish to say “thank you” to all the caregivers out there who make the selfless sacrifices they make each and every day.