November marks National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the 40 million Americans – including 1.7 million Ohioans – who help older parents, spouses, and other loved ones live independently at home, where they want to be. The unpaid care they provide – managing medications, cooking meals, driving to appointments, performing complex medical tasks and more – is valued at more than $16.5 million in Ohio alone.
Veronica Scott of Canal Winchester is one of these unsung heroes, and modestly says, “Sometimes I feel like I need someone to step up and do something to help. The truth is someone is available, and that’s me.”
AARP Ohio is recognizing Ms. Scott with a Portrait of Care, an artist’s painting of her and her mother, Elvera. Selected through AARP’s storytelling initiative, I Heart Caregivers, Ms. Scott is one of 53 family caregivers from every state, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands receiving a hand-painted portrait. Thousands have shared their stories on the I Heart Caregivers web site.
“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 Michael L. Barnhart, Ph.D., who volunteers as state president for AARP Ohio, with more than 1.5 million members statewide. “This is especially important as we work to support family caregivers through public policy, education, outreach and more.”
A customer service representative for American Electric Power for 15 years, the utility company has made it possible for Veronica to work from home for the past year so that she can continue care for her mother, Elvera, who has congestive heart failure, diabetes and kidney failure. Visit the I Heart Caregivers site to read Ms. Scott's full caregiving story.
Supporting Family Caregivers
“Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system, serving a crucial role in helping older Ohioans avoid institutional care,” said staffer Trey Addison, who is working with legislators on the Ohio Caregiver Act. “AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to help make their big responsibilities a little bit easier.”
This year AARP Ohio has been working to introduce and adopt the Ohio Caregiver Act, which would:
- Recognize family caregivers when their loved ones go to the hospital and as they transition home.
- Ensure that caregivers get the information and training they need to care for their loved ones when they are discharged from the hospital or care center to return to their homes.
- Allow workplace flexibility to help family caregivers balance work and home responsibilities.
“Family caregiving is really an issue that impacts us all,” Addison concluded. “It’s not a Democrat issue. It’s not a Republican issue. It’s a family issue.”