Hearting Family Caregivers Across Arkansas
An excerpt from Shelly’s story:
“It was a quick decision because I knew Mother needed me, but a hardship financially. … The next two-and-a-half years were a mix of wonderful shared experiences with her and a plethora of cooking, housekeeping, laundry, financial duties, bathing, managing medicines, monitoring blood pressure and countless trips to rehab, doctors, pharmacy, radiation, church, meetings and visits with friends and family.”
Shelly is one of more than 698,000 Arkansans who perform a great labor of love:caring for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones so they can remain in their homes. These family caregivers are sometimes on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and often they can’t even take a break. But they wouldn’t have it any other way.
That’s why AARP honors these unsung heroes for their labor of love during November: National Family Caregivers Month.
It’s a fact: the vast majority of older Arkansans want to live independently, at home, as they age. And, family caregivers are the ones who provide the bulk of assistance to make this goal a reality for many. They help with:
- bathing and dressing
- meal preparation
- managing finances
- grocery shopping, and much more.
Here’s another excerpt from Shelly’s caregiving story: “As I reflect on this experience, I realize I could not have given a better gift to my mother than to enable her to live in her home throughout her illness and to die in her home with dignity and the comfort of familiar surroundings.”
Like Shelly, many family caregivers also perform medical or nursing tasks for their loved ones – like complex medication management, wound care, and injections. Yet, most receive little or no training for these duties.
Today, the average family caregiver is a 49-year-old female, who takes care of a 77-year-old woman – usually her mother. She provides 20 hours a week of assistance to her loved one, although she may be on call around-the-clock. She also works.
In Arkansas, family caregivers provide unpaid care valued at a staggering $4.5 billion annually. For our state, their contribution runs even deeper. By helping their older loved ones remain at home – and out of costly nursing homes, usually paid for by Medicaid – family caregivers are, in essence, saving the state money.
But, family caregivers could use some support – so they have the strength and energy to carry on: more support, help at home, workplace protections, training and more. That’s why AARP is fighting for common-sense solutions, like, “respite care” so caregivers can take a hard-earned break¸ financial help for caregivers, and making sure caregivers have the right resources in the community – like home care and adult day care.
Keep in mind: If you’re not a caregiver now, you were one in the past, or you will likely be one in the future. This month, let’s all take a moment to recognize our fellow family caregivers – share your story at www.aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.