November marks National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the 42 million Americans, 1.3 million Hoosiers, who help care for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones so they can remain at home – as opposed to costly institutions. 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. Bottom line: family caregivers do remarkable things every day to care for their loved ones—but this labor of love is not without its challenges. More than three in 10 family caregivers are very or extremely emotionally stressed. For family caregivers who provide assistance for more than 21 hours a week, sacrifice time away from family and friends, or live with the loved one for whom they are caring that stress is, not surprisingly, increased. “Caregivers are truly unsung heroes in our families and communities,” said AARP Indiana State Director June Lyle. “They give their time, their love and often their financial resources to help their loved ones stay as independent as possible for as long as possible. We need to do more to support Indiana’s 1.3 million unpaid family caregivers.” While they would not have it any other way, family caregiving is a big job and caregivers could use a little help. That’s why AARP is fighting for common sense solutions like:
- The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act to support caregivers as their loved ones go into the hospital and as they return home;
- A modest tax credit to help offset the financial costs of caregiving;
- Caregiver employee leave so family caregivers do not have to worry about losing their pay—or losing their jobs—when they have to take time off work to bring their older loved one to a doctor’s appointment;
- “Respite care” that allows family caregivers to take a hard-earned break;
- Making sure family caregivers have access to the right resources in the community, like home care and adult day care;
- Cutting through the red tape and allowing nurses to have the full authority to heal;
- And, helping family caregivers navigate financial challenges by making sure power of attorney and adult guardianship laws are consistent and honored from state to state.
To honor family caregivers, this month AARP launched a new initiative to spotlight their stories, called “I Heart Caregivers”: aarp.org/iheartcaregivers. According to AARP, the vast majority of older Hoosiers want to live independently, at home, as they age. And, family caregivers are the ones who step up and provide the bulk of assistance to make this goal a reality, including help with bathing and dressing, meal preparation, managing finances, transportation, grocery shopping and more. Let’s shine a light on family caregivers in Indiana and all they do. Every family caregiver has a story. What’s yours? Visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers to find out more about family caregivers in Indiana – and share your story.