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November is National Family Caregiver Month

National Family Caregiver Month is observed every November around the world to draw attention to the many challenges facing family caregivers, to advocate for public policy to address family caregiver issues, and to raise awareness about the community programs which support family caregivers.

Who is a family caregiver? Family caregivers provide $375 billion dollars of “free” caregiving services for their older adult loved ones to support our healthcare system.

“Family” caregivers are those individuals who provide care to a loved one who is chronically ill or disabled.

I place the word “family” in quotations because it is meant to also include the close friends, neighbors, partners, or anyone who has an emotional attachment to the care recipient and who acts like family.

Statistics from the Family Caregiver Alliance and AARP in 2009 report that almost two million Ohioans are family caregivers, and the economic value of the caregiving they provide is estimated at $14.2 billion.

In 2009, this was about 20 percent more money than Ohio’s total Medicaid spending, and about 10 times as much as Ohio spends on home and community-based services.

The Area Agency on Aging District 7’s (AAA7) Family Caregiver Support Program offers counseling, training and respite services to help family caregivers.

The program also provides information about available services for family caregivers and their loved ones, as well as assistance in gaining access to those services.

Our organization is pleased to have the opportunity to formally recognize and celebrate the vital role family caregivers play.

This year, we are encouraging individuals to speak out and seek assistance. We urge family caregivers to protect their own health and safety as well as their loved ones.

We ask places of business to recognize that employees are often providing care for loved ones and may need assistance. The Family Caregiver Support Program at the AAA7 can help, and we are as close away as a phone call. Simply call us toll-free at 1-800-582-7277.

Family caregiving is an issue for all of us. It has been said that there are four kinds of people in the world — those who have been caregivers, those who are currently a caregiver, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.

None of us will be excluded. Take action this month to reach out and assist a family caregiver by providing a meal, a ride, or some respite time for them. And remember to call our Agency if you need assistance or just someone to speak with.

 

Pamela K. Matura, Executive Director, Area Agency on Aging District 7