November is National Family Caregiver Month. The AARP reports every two out five adults are family caregivers. This month has been set aside to honor them for their hard work, compassion, and tireless efforts in caring for their loved ones.
Caregivers often have a full-time job in addition to their caregiver duties. The duties of a caregiver range from running errands, writing checks and providing transportation to the doctor’s office to helping with everyday activities such as bathing, dressing, eating and toileting.
While approximately one-third of caregivers have made the choice to live with the care receiver, the majority of caregivers do not live with the person they are caring for. Those not living with the care receiver often do not even realize they fit the definition of a caregiver.
“Caregivers make amazing contributions that often go unnoticed and deserve to be recognized,” said Ada Vanderford, Area Agency on Aging Information Specialist at South Western Oklahoma Development Authority (SWODA).
In 2011, the AARP reported on the value of family caregiver contributions from 2009. “The value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $450 billion in 2009, up from an estimated $375 billion in 2007…More than total Medicaid spending in 2009…As much as the total sales of the world’s larges companies, including Wal-Mart ($408 billion in 2009, the most of any company)…”
Experts fear that caregivers who never take a break from their duties will experience “caregiver burnout.” Some caregivers may feel guilty for needing to take a break. However, without a break, caregivers may become overwhelmed and the quality of care they provide could decline.
One program designed to alleviate this problem and provide caregivers with a break is the SWODA’s Caregiver Program. This program provides vouchers to qualified caregivers so they can hire someone while they take a break. For more information about this program, contact Ada Vanderford at 1-800-627-4882, ext. 127.
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