The 40 million people who take care of older, ill, frail or disabled adults don’t often get enough thanks or attention for the work they do to benefit others.
The November issue of AARP Bulletin helps corrects that oversight in a special report headlined “Caregiving in America 2015.” The volunteer army of folks who took care of other adults in 2013 alone contributed a collective 37 billion hours in unpaid service worth $470 billion, notes AARP’s recent report “Valuing the Invaluable.” That’s up from $450 billion in 2009.
The magazine reports that a 49-year-old woman is the typical family caregiver. However, about a quarter of all caregivers are ages 18 to 34. About 10 million millennials are caring for adult family members.
More than 15 million caregivers provide services to people with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association reports. Disabled veterans make up another segment of the population, depending on caregivers’ help. AARP Bulletin reports that there 5.5 million caregivers of veterans or current members of the military. They comprise about 17 percent of all caregivers.
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Of the 1.1 million family caregivers of post- 9/11 veterans and military members, only about 22,000 are receiving extensive Department of Veterans Affairs assistance. About 68 percent of caregivers for veterans report that their situation is “highly stressful.”
“Valuing the Invaluable” reports that “family caregiving today is more complex, costly, stressful and demanding than at any time in human history.” It is destine to get worse as baby boomers age and need assistance.
“Findings from the Stress in America survey show that those who serve as family caregivers to older relatives report higher levels of stress and poorer health than the population at large,” the caregivers reports notes. “More than half (55 percent) of caregivers surveyed said that they felt overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs.”
Although family caregivers are mostly women, about 40 percent are men, an AARP/National Alliance for Caregiving report says. Six years ago surveys showed that 34 percent of caregivers were men. It is important that more men step up because Alzheimer’s disease disproportionately claims more women.
“Surveys have shown that between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers have significant symptoms of depression — and men are far less likely to seek treatment,” the magazine reports.
About half of all adult caregivers are under age 50, the AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving’s 2015 report shows. Many find themselves in the “sandwich” generation, juggling school-age children and older or ailing parents or other adults.
Family caregivers often face the most stress. Some work 21 hours or more as caregivers, and for that reason they are considered “intensive caregivers,” the magazine reports.
AARP Bulletin ask that people show “Random Acts of Kindness for Caregivers.” It’s in recognition of National Family Caregivers Month being in November. The magazine encourages people to take a photo of their random act of kindness and post it on social media with the hashtag #BeKindToCaregivers.
The magazine also asks people to challenge their friends to be kind to caregivers. Folks who take on the challenge can “win up to $2,500 for the most creative, original and meaningful act of kindness for a caregiver. Go to aarp.org/caregiverkindness for more information.
Some suggestions include:
▪ Cooking a meal and delivering it hot to caregivers.
▪ Offering to pick up prescriptions for the person receiving the assistance.
▪ Writing a letter to the caregiver, telling her/him you know her/his sacrifices and you admire her/him for the love and devotion provided.
▪ Picking up the kids for the care provider and give them rides to after-school events.
▪ For a co-worker who is a caregiver, offer to donate some of vacation days to help provide some relief.
▪ With a group of friends, decorate the caregiver’s house for the holidays.
▪ Baking the caregiver special treats.
▪ Offering to tutor the caregiver’s children if they need homework assistance.
▪ Sending the caregiver some flowers.
▪ Picking up groceries for the caregiver to take that load off the person.
▪ Raking up leaves and cleaning out gutters. ’Tis the season.
The contest is open to people age 18 and older. It ends March 15, 2016.
People also can write to AARP, 601 E. St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20049.