Hey, Family Caregivers! We’re Recognizing YOU this November!
By Whitney Stohr
November is National Family Caregivers Month!
In November, we take time to recognize the family caregivers who provide support to their loved ones, family members and friends, in communities across the country. It is an opportunity to raise awareness and gain knowledge about caregiving issues and what we can do to advocate for policy change and programs that support family caregivers.
Family caregivers are considered informal caregivers — that is, they are individuals who assist another person, who is often their spouse, child or other family member, with medical care or daily living activities, without receiving compensation for their services. In contrast, “formal caregivers” are those who are paid for their caregiving work, such as health aids or staff at long-term care facilities.
The number of family caregivers has increased significantly in recent years, jumping from 43.5 million Americans in 2015 to 53 million in 2020 (Source: AARP/NAC). The majority of family caregivers are women. Of those individuals, approximately 24% are providing care for more than one person. In Washington state, the number of family caregivers exceeds 850,000 individuals (Source: WA DSHS). Altogether, the economic benefit of services rendered by informal family caregivers is valued at well over $450 billion per year (Source: FCA).
There is no doubt that family caregivers have a profound impact on the lives of their loved ones and within their wider communities. The work of family caregivers should be recognized and honored, not only in the month of November, but throughout the year.
However, the positive impact and benefit of providing care to a family member does not erase the challenges of informal caregiving. Statistics show that family caregivers often struggle with the mental, physical and financial impact of providing unpaid care. Many report declining health, chronic medical conditions or disabilities of their own, depression and anxiety, stress and overwork (Sources: ACL, CDC, FCA). A significant percentage of family caregivers experience difficulty managing their job and caregiver responsibilities, and many report at least one financial impact directly resulting from caregiving (Source: AARP/NAC).
So, perhaps, more than simply recognizing the contributions and support system created by family caregivers, it is critical to raise awareness about the challenges of caregiving and the programs and policies that are needed to support the millions of Americans who, in turn, are there for their loved ones.
Additional information about the informal/family caregiving sector:
Long-Term Services and Supports and Family Caregiver — AARP Public Policy Institute — Link: tinyurl.com/73p9nta8. (Webpage includes a wide selection of caregiving research, publications and other resources)
Information about National Family Caregivers Month and awareness raising:
Whitney Stohr is a Parent to Parent Coordinator at The Arc of Snohomish County. She is passionate about advocating for medically complex children and children with disabilities and their families. She is a mom and medical caregiver herself, who is energized by working closely with other parent/family caregivers. She lives with her three-year-old son Malachi and husband Jason in Lynnwood. (Article originally published in November 2021.)