November is National Family Caregivers’ Month, so I want to salute you, my caregiving readers, for the vital service you provide to your loved ones.
As I talk with caregivers, I see men and women who are building a legacy by laying down their lives for aging parents, disabled spouses, or others they love. In the process, the caregivers’ hopes and dreams are often put on the back burner. Not only do they watch the decline of someone they love, but they also sacrifice their work, their goals, their finances, and sometimes their marriages. It isn’t easy.
Just how valuable are you? According to several AARP studies, 65.7 million caregivers (29% of the U.S. adult population) are providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. Caregiver services were valued at $450 billion per year in 2009–up from $375 billion in year 2007. At $450 billion in 2011, the value of informal caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care. It was more than Wal-Mart sales ($408 billion), and nearly met total expenditures for the Medicaid program in 2009 ($509 billion). That’s a lot of value, folks! And the value of unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S. since the aging population 65+ will more than double between the years 2000 and 2030, increasing to 71.5 million from 35.1 million in 2000.
Over 34 percent of caregivers provide more than 75 hours per week caregiving. That doesn’t leave time for much else. Seventy percent of working caregivers made some job change to accommodate their caregiving role. Twelve percent of caregivers reduced work hours or took a less demanding job while nine percent gave up work entirely, compared to three percent who took an early retirement.
So thank you, you priceless family caregivers. Yes, you’re squished, but you are so very important. So please, try to take some time for yourself. Take care of yourself. And pat yourself on the back. Well done!
Photo Credit: Robert Sikora