Authors

  1. Harris, Marilyn MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN

Article Content

November is Family Caregiver's Awareness month-a time to formally honor family caregivers. Caring, of course, occurs every day, not just 1 month of the year. But it is important to stop and recognize the many contributions that caregivers make to individuals and society as a whole. Caregivers are individuals who take care of family, friends, and neighbors. Sometimes this care is voluntary, sometimes it is not. No two caregiving situations are the same. All age-groups require caregivers: children, spouses, parents, with care often provided by the "sandwich generation." Supporting loved ones may be stressful and demanding but it is also rewarding. The healthcare industry has begun to recognize that family members and close friends may have a far greater impact on the patient's experience of illness and outcomes than formal healthcare.

 

The Profile of Older Americans: 2016 from the United States Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics provides the following statistics:

 

* The population 65 years and over increased from 36.6 million in 2005 to 47.8 million in 2015 (a 30% increase) and is projected to more than double to 98 million in 2060

 

* Between 2005 and 2015 the population age 60 and over increased 34% from 49.8 million to 66.8 million

 

* The 85+ population is projected to triple from 6.3 million in 2015 to 14.6 million in 2040

 

* About one in every seven, or 14.9% of the population, is an older American

 

* There were 76,974 persons aged 100 or more in 2015 (.2% of the total 65+ population)

 

* Older women outnumber older men at 26.7 million older women to 21.1 million older men

 

* About 29% (13.6 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (9.3 million women, 4.3 million men)

 

* Almost half of older women (46%) age 75+ live alone.

 

 

Valuing the Invaluable: Putting a Dollar Value to Family Caregiving described the value of caregiving to society:

 

* About 40 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 37 billion hours of care

 

* The estimated value of their unpaid service was approximately $470 billion

 

* The report compared this dollar value in 2013-2014 with Walmart's annual sales of $477 billion, the combined annual sales of Apple, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Microsoft of $466 billion and the total Medicaid expenditures of $449

 

* Caregivers spent an average of 18 hours per week providing care to a family member

 

* Sixty percent of family caregivers were caring for an adult while employed full or part time

 

* Sixty-eight percent of family caregivers said they used their own money to help provide care to their relative and 39% felt a financial strain

 

* Fifty-five percent of caregivers felt overwhelmed by the amount of care needed for a family member (AARP, 2013).

 

 

Although November is the month to draw attention to the many challenges that family caregivers face on a daily basis, each of us has the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the valuable role that informal caregivers provide every day. Depending on the situation, support can include:

 

* Offers of help with shopping or preparing a meal

 

* Send a card

 

* Make a telephone call

 

* Random acts of kindness

 

* Spiritual support through prayer

 

 

As a family member, registered nurse, neighbor, and involved with my faith community, it is my goal to take time to recognize the many formal and informal caregivers in our community during the year. Please join me in the recognition of family caregivers.

 

REFERENCES

 

AARP. (2013). Valuing the invaluable: Putting a dollar value to family caregiving. Retrieved from http://http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/valuing-care-infographic.pdf [Context Link]

 

United States Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics. (2016). The profile of older Americans: 2016. Retrieved from http://aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/future_growth/future_growth.aspx