In September, the New York Times ran a story by Sandeep Jauhaur on caring for his aging parents. His mom has Parkinson’s disease, and his dad dementia. Jauhaur noted that “ my siblings and I joined the ranks of the 15 million or so unpaid and untrained family caregivers for older adults in this country. A recent study found that almost half of this largely invisible work force spends, on average, nearly 30 hours a week providing care to relatives, many of whom have dementia, an estimated more than $400 billion worth of annual unpaid time.” This information is not new—this is the work we are in. Every day we talk to family caregivers that are worried about how they will care for their aging and ailing loved ones. For some reason, though, this article has been haunting me; one family, representing the work of 15 million, describing the daily struggles of caring for a loved one. In one short article, he summarized the financial loss to caregivers, the vulnerability of elders to abuse and exploitation, the isolation and uselessness felt by many elders, and the potential solution in government-backed support for family caregivers.
Becoming an unexpected caregiver is one of the toughest roles many family members find themselves in. With little training, support or incentives, these caregivers are giving up to 30 hours of uncompensated labor per week to help their loved ones dress, bathe, shop, manage their households, pay their bills, hire caregivers, and navigate the complex health care and health insurance worlds. All of this on top of their own households, families and careers. It all seems to be too much.
I am often overwhelmed by the physical and emotional load our families carry daily. November is National Family Caregivers Month, and our thoughts and hearts are with all the family caregivers as they engage in this work.
To read the New York Times article mentioned above, click here.
To learn more about National Family Caregivers Month, click here.