Celebrated annually on the third Friday of February, National Caregiver’s Day was established in 2016 to recognize the hard work, sacrifices, and many contributions of this altruistic and undervalued faction of our society.
At the Glencroft Center for Modern Aging, frontline caregivers are essential to the success of our continuing care retirement community. But we also recognize the spouses, family members, and friends contributing as caregivers for our residents and their loved ones, especially during a challenging pandemic. Caregivers come in many forms, and all are a blessing for patients who depend on them.
The phrase “Healthcare Heroes” spread almost as fast as the coronavirus in 2020, as frontline healthcare professionals worldwide were tasked beyond capacity to care for COVID-19-afflicted patients. A silver lining of the pandemic was a renewed appreciation for these “essential workers,” as well as a heightened awareness of their need for more support and resources. Glencroft appreciates all members of our staff that contribute daily to the wellbeing of our residents. We can’t thank you enough (but we’ll keep trying)!
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), nearly 53 million people in the U.S. serve as unpaid caregivers as of 2020, an increase of 10 million from 2015.
The average age of unpaid caregivers in the U.S. is 49. The average number of caregiving hours per week is 24, the equivalent of a part-time job. Nearly 61 percent of unpaid caregivers are also juggling work and family responsibilities on top of unpaid caregiving duties. The average duration of a caregiver’s service is 4 years. That’s nearly 5,000 total unpaid caregiving hours, based on the average of 24 hours per week. Older caregivers (75+) spend 34 hours per week on average caring for a spouse or loved one, or more than 7,000 hours across 4 years.
Studies by the AARP Public Policy Institute placed an economic value for unpaid caregivers at $470 billion in 2013. Considering the 10 million increase in their numbers across the past 5 years alone, that is a conservative estimate.
During a “Caregiving in the U.S.” webinar hosted by the NAC, Dr. Lisa McGuire explained the importance of caregivers to help those in their care maintain their independence and well-being, assisting them with everyday activities and ensuring they show up for healthcare appointments. As the lead for the Centers for CDC Alzheimer’s Disease & Healthy Aging programs, Dr. McGuire painted a dismal picture of what would happen without them. “Their lack of involvement may lead to poor health outcomes and preventable hospitalizations for those they are assisting.” The cost of that care in the absence of unpaid caregivers would likely draw on taxpayer dollars and significantly compromise patients’ quality of life.
Yet caregiver efforts often go unappreciated, contributing to depression, isolation, and burnout for the caregiver. National Caregiver’s Day is a good reminder to show caregivers the deep appreciation they deserve.
Ways to Show Appreciation
Whether you have a direct relationship with a caregiver or just appreciate what they do, there are plenty of ways to express your gratitude. The easiest and most authentic way is simply saying “thank you” and acknowledging the contributions of a caregiver, letting them know they are valued. A small gesture, such as a card, flowers, or a gift card, is also appreciated. For more impact, consider a donation in their name to a nonprofit cause of their choice, such as the Glencroft Friendship Foundation, a 501(c)3 that supports the ongoing care of aging adults living at the Glencroft Center for Modern Aging.
Resources for Caregivers
The Glencroft Center for Modern Aging hosts a caregiver support group for family members of Glencroft residents. At the national level, caregivers can find tips, guides, tutorials, resources, and other information online to assist them in their caregiving efforts. Here are a few:
- Caregiver Action Network
- Caregiver’s Bill of Rights
- Caregiver Support Services
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- The National Alliance for Caregiving
Whether it’s National Caregiver’s Day or any day of the year, it’s always the right time to recognize caregivers for their time, effort, and compassion.