“Making the decision to care for Mother meant leaving my own home, job, church and friends to devote my life to her and get her back on her feet. It was a quick decision, but a hardship financially.”
Shelly, 69, left her job as marketing director for the local hospital and moved 220 miles to live with and care for her mother, Betty, who had broken her hip. Her mother has since passed away.
AARP believes family caregiver stories like Shelly’s aren’t celebrated nearly enough. Because of their tireless efforts, older parents, spouses, and other loved are able to live independently at home and in the community – where they want to be. It’s a labor of love for sure, and often more than a full-time job.
Shelly is one of 452,000 family caregivers across Arkansas. Together they provide an estimated $4.7 billion in unpaid care each year, helping their loved ones with bathing and dressing; cooking meals; transportation; finances; complex medical tasks, like wound care and injections; and more.
That’s why AARP is spotlighting their experiences of hope, love, dedication and perseverance through our storytelling initiative, I Heart Caregivers. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, this November, AARP randomly selected 53 of these unsung heroes, one from every state as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – including Shelly – to receive Portraits of Care, original paintings of each family caregiver and his or her loved one, from photos submitted through I Heart Caregivers.
Shelly publicly received her Portrait of Care during a Nov. 10, 2015, AARP media appearance on THV11, the central Arkansas CBS affiliate. Click on the screenshot below to view the clip:
Fighting for family caregivers in Arkansas
“We want to celebrate family caregivers, spotlight their experiences of hope, love, dedication and perseverance, and elevate their stories—especially during National Family Caregivers Month,” said Herb Sanderson, Interim State Director of AARP Arkansas, which serves about 300,000 Arkansans age 50 and older. “Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system, serving a crucial role in helping older Arkansans and other loved ones remain in their own homes and communities.”
In 2015, AARP worked to pass the Arkansas Lay Caregiver Act (Act 1013 of 2015) to help family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home. The Act was signed into law in April 2015 by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and took effect July 21, 2015. Act 1013 allows patients to designate a family caregiver and provides training on medical tasks caregivers will need to perform once their loved one returns home.
AARP Arkansas’ fight is ongoing for common-sense solutions to help make family caregivers’ big responsibilities a little bit easier, Sanderson said—most recently, urging state legislators to support prioritizing funding for home- and community-based care.
“Prioritizing home- and community-based care not only helps older Arkansans stay in their homes where they want to be, but also will save the state money,” Sanderson said.
If you’re a family caregiver, you’re not alone.
- Learn more about the Arkansas Lay Caregiver Act and download the Arkansas Caregiver Resource Guide at http://wp.me/p2ZEti-ks4
- To share your story and connect with others, visit www.aarp.org/iheartcaregivers
- To find out more about how AARP is fighting for you, check out www.aarp.org/SupportCaregivers