KENTUCKY (3/19/13) - As I wrote earlier, I have a friend that went through a very traumatic year last year. She wanted something positive to come from her suffering. So, she birthed the idea of getting a group of people willing to make someone happy each month for 12 months. I felt so inspired by this that I wanted to share her vision with my readers. Today we are going to continue our year of kindness. Our focus this month is on caregivers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the elderly population is expected to double between now and the year 2050. This statistic, along with the “baby boomer” generation aging, means that a growing number of American adults will serve as caregivers to their aging parents and loved ones.
Here are some staggering statistics about caregivers:
•Over 120 million adult Americans (57%) are or have provided unpaid care for a family member.*
•Around 138 million Americans believe they will need to provide care to someone in the future.*
•Typically, one person provides the majority of the care.**
•Most caregivers are over the age of 45.*
•Approximately 63% of caregivers provide care for a year or more and about 26% have been caregivers for over four years.*
•On average, caregivers spend 21 hours a week providing care while 17% provide 40 hours or more a week on caregiving.***
•Many caregivers work either full or part time jobs.***
•Some working caregivers have reported having to take leave of absences, move from full-time to part-time work, quit work, lose job benefits, turn down promotions, or choose early retirement.***
•More than half of working caregivers have to go into work late, leave early, or take time off during the day to provide care.***
•Caregivers providing 40+ hours of care a week have reported their physical strain on a scale from 1 to 5 to be a 4.***
•Depression is the most common health problem among caregivers. Caregivers caring for family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to become depressed than the average population.****
The subject of caregivers is one that is close to home for me. My mother was a caregiver to my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s for six years. She was one of the many caregivers who had to quit their jobs and give up their insurance to take care of their loved ones. Her life consisted of taking care of my grandma. My grandma got to where she forgot how to walk. My mom would get her up, bathe her, dress her, and feed her. She would rarely meet up with friends. The most she would be able to do would be to visit me and go to church while my brother or a friend would be home watching her. All my life my mother has been caring for others. Along with taking care of my grandmother, she raised me and my younger brother, took care of her sister during a mental illness, and she took care of her brother with a physical disability for four years after their mother came down with Alzheimer’s. Her gift is caring for others and giving of herself. I admire her for her faithfulness and selflessness. I will be one of the 138 million Americans that will be taking care of a family member one day. After everything my mom has sacrificed to make sure her family is well taken care of, I will not do anything less for her. She is truly one of my heroes!
I told my mom about me writing this article and I asked her what she wanted most from other people during the six years she had cared for my grandma. She said to not be forgotten. She would have liked to be able to get a few more afternoons where someone else, that she trusted, come by and look after her mom while she stepped out for some leisure time. I know of other people who are caregivers and it seems that people can sometimes forget about them and the ones they are caring for. I especially see this on holidays. This time of year can be a depressing time for the caregiver and the one being cared for. Things have changed so much from the times when they were healthy. There are many instances when the caregiver and the one being cared for are all alone during the holidays.
Do you have a family member, friend, or neighbor who stays at home caring for an aged parent or loved one? Stop by and say hello. Ask them if they need anything. If they are your family, offer to look after the elderly person while the caregiver goes out for a while. Just sit down for an hour and talk to them. This can make a world of difference for them and you as well.
We don’t know what the future holds. One day we may very well be a caregiver or the one being cared for. Today while you are able, work on leaving a legacy that will last past your lifetime. Make a difference in the lives of the people that God has placed in your path.
I may be here for a short while, gone tomorrow into oblivion or until the days come to take me away. But in whatever part you play, be remembered as part of a legacy…of sharing dreams and changing humanity for the better. It’s that legacy that never dies.
Don’t forget to share your random acts of kindness stories with my friend, Carlisha!
I am thinking about starting a once a month internet radio show. The show will consist of discussing some of the topics in my column along with other inspiring topics. We would go more in depth than what I do in the column and also have guest speakers and call-ins.
Would you listen in?
Click the link below and let me know!
*Opinion Research Corporation, 2005
**National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 1997)
***National Alliance for Caregiving with AARP and MetLife, 2004
****American Journal of Public Health, 1997 & Institute for Studies on Aging, New England Research Institutes, 1999
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