Let’s survey the caregiving facts:
More than 65 million people in the United States provide care for chronically ill, disabled or aged family members or friends during any given year.
Those 65 million people spend 20 hours a week providing that care.
That care is valued at $375 billion a year, which is almost twice as much as is spent on homecare and nursing home services combined.
These are huge numbers that shouldn’t be ignored. That’s why the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) has decided on “Identifying Family Caregivers” as the theme of November 2011 National Family Caregivers Month. Because despite these giant numbers and the huge role family caregivers play in the care of their loved ones, they remain invisible to our healthcare system.
As NFCA President and CEO Suzanne Mintz says: “Nowhere on medical intake forms is there a question about whether someone is, or has a family caregiver. Nowhere on a person's medical record is there a place for a notation of any kind about their care status. Without such information, the role of a family caregiver in the life of a person with chronic conditions is essentially negated, and without such information, a family caregiver's increased risk for depression and chronic disease cannot be monitored. In some situations, it may be obvious that someone is or has a family caregiver, but if it isn't in the record, it isn't official, and cannot be taken into account in developing a plan of care—for both parties.”
Mintz is recommending political action on the part of caregivers, suggesting they simply add their name and information each time they fill out medical intake forms or electronic medical records.
“One form at a time you can make a difference, change the status quo and gain recognition for the important job of being a family caregiver,” Mintz adds.
Every year NFCA volunteers also secure proclamations from governors, mayors, representatives, senators and other politicians to recognize family caregivers. And in turn, each time an elected official issues a proclamation, the NFCA informs the proper congressional delegation, amplifying the effort and pushing the role of caregivers into the public view.
The NFCA has been celebrating family caregivers since 1994; let’s make this November another successful year bringing more attention to hardworking caregivers across the country.
For more information on the NFCA, visit: nfcacares.org.
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