Friday (February 18th) was National Caregivers Day. Knowing about my focus on caregivers, a colleague sent me an interesting article so I’m passing along some insights I’ve gained from reading it (click here for the article). Just defining what a “caregiver” is can be confusing in our everyday conversations.
An unpaid caregiver is, by this author’s definition, someone who is caring for someone else and helping in any way, including:
- Picking up groceries or running other errands
- Helping with household management
- Mowing a lawn or shoveling snow & ice
- Managing finances or paying bills
- Taking a loved one to medical and dental appointments
- Physically caring for their health and wellbeing
More than ever before. . .
What startled me most in reading this article was the unprecedented growth in the number of caregivers out there doing challenging work without much attention being paid to their efforts. The author offered these observations:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a doubling in the number of unpaid caregivers, and changing demographic trends show that number will most likely continue to grow due to rising healthcare costs, an aging population, and couples delaying child rearing (causing people in their 20s and 30s to assume the caregiver role). Pre-pandemic, it was already estimated that unpaid caregivers were providing value to the US economy to the tune of $3.2 trillion. A more recent study pinned the spending of care-related activities as high as $648 billion, making it a larger economy than pharmaceuticals. The implications of this reality are an increased need for greater awareness and support for this critical cohort of the population.”
Caregivers often minimize both their impact on the friends/family members they serve AND the burden of the work they do. The author cites a CDC study that notes, “up to 70 percent of unpaid caregivers have at least one mental health impact such as anxiety, depression, or trauma and stress-related disorder.” This is especially noteworthy, given the added isolation caused by the pandemic.
Staffing issues for every human-service organization, have made finding respite care or in-home help even more difficult. The costs of caring for others have skyrocketed and there are often lost-opportunity costs for those who retire early or may move to part-time work to care for family members.
The author notes, research has shown “Unpaid caregivers who feel supported even by just one person have 40 percent lower risk of depression and 30 percent lower risk of anxiety.” So, if you’re supporting a caregiver – or you KNOW a caregiver who needs support – you may be the bridge to an enormous amount of relief!
The work of caregiving is hard. The people who do it are amazing. They need and deserve our support and encouragement.
Caregivers are exactly the people I serve most often at Co-Create 4 Life, through coaching, training events and other supports. If you know someone who is out there sinking in the overwhelming challenges of family caregiving, please consider sending them my way!