November is National Family Caregivers Month, a great time to honor and support the 65 million Americans who provide care for their older and disabled loved ones. Caregivers are an integral part of the system of care in this country. They often put their own physical, emotional and financial well-being at risk to care for the person they love. Their sacrifice may result in job loss, depression, a health crisis, and other stress-related conditions.
It is a myth that most of our nation’s older adults are cared for in nursing homes and other institutions. Family and friends provide most long term care at home. In the United States 58% of care recipients 50 and older live in their own home and 20% live with their caregiver. Only 11% live in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Family and friend caregivers create a huge savings to the government and health care institutions estimated at $375 billion a year.
What can you do to support to family caregivers? Provide them with respite. Respite is a chance for them to take a breather and re-energize. Respite is not a luxury. It is a key to preventing burn-out, it protects the caregiver’s health and well-being, and it strengthens family relationships. Studies show that short breaks allow loved ones to stay at home up to three times longer.
My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and lived with us for many years. Caregiving is challenging, but it certainly has its rewards. My children learned to appreciate the importance of family and taking care of each other. During this month of Thanksgiving please thank a caregiver for all that they do.