National Caregivers Month (November) is ending but the compassionate work caregivers do goes on. Nearly 40 million caregivers currently provide care to adults with a disability or illness.
Those who need that care currently make up about 16.6 percent of the population. That percentage will inevitably rise as the percentage of older Americans rises.
The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060. The percentage of the total population in that age category will rise from about 15 percent today to nearly 24 percent by 2060, according to the Population Reference Bureau's website, PRB.org.
The National Family Caregivers Association began promoting national recognition of family caregivers in 1994. President Bill Clinton signed the first National Family Caregivers Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997 and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers each November.
When former president Barack Obama made the National Caregivers Month proclamation in 2012, he said the idea was to give recognition to “family members, friends and neighbors who devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones.” He added, “During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.”
Most caregivers are unpaid — they are spouses, partners, family members, friends and sometimes even neighbors — who are involved in helping with daily living and medical assistance.
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) the economic value of the help provided by informal caregivers has steadily increased over the last decade, with an estimated value of $470 billion in 2013, up from $450 billion in 2009 and $375 billion in 2007. At that rate of increase, the value of the assistance provided by informal caregivers today would easily top $500 billion. That exceeds the value of paid home care and total Medicaid spending in America.
The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) at caregiveraction.org has resources for caregivers, including 10 tips for family caregivers, a family caregiver toolbox, videos, stories and information about agencies and organizations that can help. Information and current research is also available from CAN.
CAN encourages caregivers to share their stories to raise awareness of the challenges as well as the many sources for help. The CAN website has information on:
• Making a home caregiving-smart
• Technology that can assist with caregiving
• Advocating for caregivers
• Ways to ease the loneliness of older loved ones (and their caregivers)
• How to ease caregiver stress
• The language of asking for and offering help
• How to deal with unwanted advice
• Helping Alzheimer’s patients not “fade away”
In Winnemucca, Humboldt Hospice and RSVP are among the resources that offer help and respite assistance for caregivers.