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In Praise Of Caregivers; Part II

On Saturday August 13th, Senior Sidekicks welcomed caregivers to our booth at the 14th Annual Conference for Caregivers sponsored by the Lincolnland Area Agency on Aging. We enjoyed listening to Caregivers. One caregiver returned to the conference even though her loved one had died. She said she “felt at home” at the conference. She explained that only other caregivers knew what she had experienced. She did not always find such sensitivity in other parts of society. Several caregivers said they had felt alone in their caregiving role. Another caregiver expressed surprise at the number of errands she was still running for her parent recently moved to a facility. Her comments became the topic for my weekly blog; “A Senior Moment”.

Senior Sidekicks views these expos as a chance to affirm caregivers’ great contribution to caring for our aging population. The Caregiving in the US 2015 Report estimates that 34.2 million provided unpaid caregiving in the previous 12 months. They provide an average of 24.1 hours of unpaid care each week. That is 1029 hours per caregiver per year! Now multiply that by 34.2 million people.   Think about the cost to taxpayers if all those hours were paid! Some may stay in the caregiving role for 3.6 up to 4.6 years and a few even longer. Caregivers may need to forego career advancement opportunities, reduce their working hours, or leave the workforce altogether! Such sacrifices deserve our society’s support.

At Senior Sidekicks, we’ve made our support tangible.  We write a weekly blog, A Senior Moment, directed to caregivers about practical issues. We have published 7 articles, most of them about caregiving situations. All our services focus on both senior and caregiver. We coined the term “Caregiver Emerita” to describe those who’s loved one has died because believe that the discussion of caregiving needs a vocabulary.

The only way our society can negotiate this demographic dilemma is by recognizing and offering tangible support through our communities, churches and other institutions. Does your organization have a recognition day for caregivers? Does your church devote a Sunday service to caregiver recognition the way many celebrate Mother’s Day? The Family Medical Leave Act policies do not cover all employers, nor are they designed for on-going care situations. Why not? We already have 34.2 million caregivers.    Employers, would you hire a Caregiver Emerita? Do you view her as “dropping out of the workforce” or do you view her as having acquired additional management skills?   Would you provide training to enable a Caregiver Emerita’s re-entry?

These annual Conferences for Caregivers are the only local recognition event. Isn’t it time there were more? We must realize that failure to support today’s caregivers puts them at a financial disadvantage for when they will need care. While our society might survive one generation’s care needs, we cannot afford to assume the consequences of two generations’ care! Please consider ways to support the caregivers in your neighborhood, church, and job. Want ideas; contact Senior Sidekicks.

 

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Senior Sidekicks had a booth at the Conference for Caregivers our first year, 2008. Each booth staff received a bag.   This year we received another bag.   We show both bags in this photo. They represent our eight years of service to caregivers. Thank you!

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