“Our Nation was founded on the fundamental ideal that we all do better when we look out for one another, and every day, millions of Americans from every walk of life balance their own needs with those of their loved ones as caregivers. During National Family Caregivers Month, we reaffirm our support for those who give of themselves to be there for their family, friends, and neighbors in challenging times, and we pledge to carry forward the progress we have made in our health care system and workplaces to give caregivers the resources and flexibility they need.”
These are the opening lines to the Presidential Proclamation of November 2016, proclaiming November 2016 as National Family Caregivers Month. Why celebrate caregivers? The 21st century has brought about change in unmeasurable ways. In 2014, 14.5% or 46.2 million Americans were 65 or older – that represents one in every seven Americans, and the number is growing. Through medical and social advances the elderly are living longer and retiring far beyond the age of 65. They may lose their driver’s license and the freedom to come and go as they please, however they remain contributors – contributors who require a caregiver in their home or in the home of a family member. Grandchildren who drop by to check on grandparents, neighbors who look in on seniors living nearby, offspring who turn guestrooms, basements and home extensions into senior living quarters and adult daycare workers are caregivers.
Caregivers are defined as: A family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly or disabled person. This expands the definition beyond its general association with seniors or our elderly population. Today caregivers include anyone who assists with the “non-medical tasks that a person cannot safely or comfortably do alone.” It is a challenging job that some gladly choose while others are forced into it. Regardless of how a person becomes a caregiver, they need our help, guidance and support. Senior Day Care Centers, Senior door to door bus transportation and Meals-On-Wheels are just a few of the many organizations supporting caregivers.
Caregivers across the country should be thanked for the many hours, days, weeks and years they spend in the care of others. As owner of a Home Helpers / Direct Link franchise, I am doing the work my lifelong experience has led me do. I know, after 27 years as a physical therapist, I am called and mandated to serve our aging generation. By providing professional caregivers and assisting, educating and training family members, I provide help for seniors who prefer to continue living independently in their own home.
The future of caregiving for seniors, the elderly and the disabled is changing. Housing trends will produce more senior-friendly communities and encourage independent living rather than seniors moving into care facilities. Let me be one of the first to say thank you to all the caregivers who give so much for so little in return. Your dedication to so many is celebrated in November, but appreciated year-round.