Honoring family caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month. We want to express our gratitude to you, who are part of the 40 million people (one in six Americans) who care for an older adult friend or relative. So many family caregivers feel invisible, we thought we’d give you some perspective on the scope of family caregiving across the country. For starters, only 4% of our nation’s seniors live in nursing homes. Another 4% live in assisted living, plus 5% in retirement communities. Most (46%) live in their own home or in the home of a family member (37%) or someone else (4%). They are assisted by an unpaid network of family and friends—caring people such as you—who drive them to the doctors, prepare meals, and eventually assist with dressing, bathing, and toileting.

The largest group of family caregivers provides ten hours of assistance per week. But 30% provide 20 hours a week, and another 20% provide forty hours or more. Yet many family caregivers don’t consider that they are essentially adding a part-time or even full-time job to their lives. Maybe you, too, think of it as “just what a good daughter/son, husband/wife/partner would do.”

Your contribution is not small! AARP has calculated that unpaid family caregivers provide 34 billion hours of care each year. That would be worth $470 billion if all were paid.

There are certainly rewards to caregiving. A feeling of gratification from giving back. Sometimes increased closeness with the person receiving the care. Pride in learning new skills. Greater compassion. Increased patience.

But family caregiving also has its costs. It can be demanding work. And family dynamics are often tough. Care receivers are not always grateful. Plus, there are often out-of-pocket expenses. Over $7,200 per year on average. Perhaps you’ve also felt that your health has suffered. Reduced sleep, minimal leisure time, delayed medical visits, and poor self-care are common. So are emotional consequences. More than one in three family caregivers reports high emotional strain. One in five reports feeling alone.

We salute you! As a nation, we owe an immense debt of gratitude to family caregivers. Thank you for all you do to help your aging and ill relatives. It does not go unnoticed by us! We are here to help.