To the editor:
National Family Caregiver Month (November) is a nationally recognized month that seeks to draw attention to the challenges that caregiving families face and raise awareness for the many programs in the communities that support caregivers.
With so much in the news these days about health care coverage, access and the needs of the elderly, it is important to remember that families -- not social service agencies, nursing homes or government programs -- are the mainstay for older people in this country. Today more than 22.4 million people are informal caregivers who provide unpaid help to older people. These caregiver spouses, adult children, relatives and friends help with shopping, transportation and household chores as well as bathing, dressing, meals and medications.
Already family caregivers provide more than 80 percent of all home care services. Collectively it is believed that these individuals contribute some $257 billion annually to the nation's health care system -- an amount that significantly reduces costs to Medicare, Medicaid and private payers. Yet although they are making a huge contribution, these caregivers, mostly women, often experience substantial stresses and burdens as a consequence.
Think of a family caregiver you know, whether a neighbor, relative, co-worker or friend and offer them a helping hand. Be specific -- offer a ride to church, a nourishing meal or a free afternoon. Just a little bit of help makes a difference for family caregivers.
board of directors,
Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging,