According to National Family Caregivers Association, during 2003 Minnesota ranked as the 21st most-prevalent, family-care-giving state with approximately a half million family caregivers providing a half billion hours of unpaid care per year, which would normally cost $4.5 billion per year. Nationally, there are approximately 27 million family caregivers providing 29 billion hours of unpaid care annually at an estimated value of $257 billion. Those numbers are almost impossible to imagine! In other words, nearly one out of 11 Minnesotans provided 21 hours, or approximately $200 worth of unpaid care per week for a family member.
Each year, the month of November has been set aside nationally to recognize the hard work, dedication, intense compassion, and tremendous security family caregivers provide. It is a time to think about the various challenges family caregivers face: often a lack of understanding by employers, lack of instruction by healthcare professionals, and lack of community support. In response, numerous organizations are working to raise awareness about community programs that offer support, guidance, and advocacy for family caregivers.
What is a family caregiver? Carol Levine, a family care-giver and the Director of the Families and Health Care Project at the United Hospital Fund of New York, says, “The two parts of the term are equally important. ‘Family’ denotes a special personal relationship with the care recipient; one based on birth, adoption, marriage, or declared commitment. ‘Care-giver’ is the job description, which may include providing personal care, carrying out medical procedures, managing a household, and interacting with the formal healthcare and social service systems on another’s behalf. Caregivers are more than the sum of their responsibilities; they are real people with complex and often conflicted responses to the situations they face.”
This November, the National Family Caregivers Association will introduce a new theme for National Family Caregivers Month: Caring Every Day, which corresponds with their Caring Every Day Campaign. The Caring Every Day Campaign encourages family caregivers to take three steps every day (Believe in Yourself, Protect Your Health, and Reach Out for Help) to make their lives easier, improve care, and raise awareness about their continued love and commitment.
Everyone can participate—it is very simple! Care recipients and family members can create Certificates of Appreciation for family caregivers. Friends, neighbors, and other community members can offer support by providing respite time; bringing over dinner; offering dinner out; or performing handyman, housekeeping, or transportation activities. Churches can acknowledge and honor the activities of family caregivers with a special worship service. Local businesses can offer discount cards or gift certificates, especially for products and services that “pamper” caregivers. Community groups can help decorate for the holidays or address holiday cards. The opportunities are endless!
For more information about potential activities, local organizations, the Caring Every Day Campaign, or National Family Caregivers’ Month, please contact the National Family Caregivers Association by calling 800-896-3650, e-mailing email@example.com, or visiting their website at www.thefamilycaregiver.org.