Caregivers are everywhere. At home, in senior living, in schools, in churches, in hospitals. There are over 65 million Americans currently caring for parents, children, friends, relatives, spouses, partners. That number will only get bigger in the years to come.
As November is National Family Caregiver Month, a recent NextAvenue post by Sherri Snelling featured interviews with five “pioneers of the caregiving community,” leaders in the “charge to raise awareness of caregivers’ needs.” Larry Minnix of LeadingAge, Gail Hunt of the National Alliance for Caregiving, Kathleen Kelly of the Family Caregiver Alliance, Suzanne Mintz of the National Family Caregivers Association, and Leisa Easom of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving reflected on the progress that has been made to better support caregivers, and spoke to the challenges that are ahead.
Of particular interest is Gail Hunt’s recommendation that healthcare providers do routine caregiver assessments as patient assessments are now conducted, along with raising awareness of resources for caregivers. These are goals worth getting behind, because so many caregivers find out too late about help that was available, or burn out as a result of trying to do everything on their own.
Bottom line: Respite needs to become a household term, caregivers need to step out in the open and support one another, and the act of asking for help needs to be regarded as a sign of strength, not weakness. Otherwise, we’ll be talking about the same challenges 5, 10, 20 years from now…would you agree?