For Family Caregivers, Love Is More Than Chocolate and Roses

Gwen and her mother

Valentine’s Day may be over, but 42 million Americans continue to give their hearts each and every day. They are family caregivers who help parents, spouses, aunts, uncles and other loved ones to live independently at home, where they want to be. For these unsung heroes, love goes beyond chocolate and roses — and their labor of love means driving to doctor’s appointments, cooking, cleaning, helping bathe and dress their loved ones, managing medications, performing medical tasks and more.

Gwen is one of this silent army of Americans. When her mother suffered a stroke in 2009, she took on the role of caregiver. Her mom needed round-the-clock care and assistance with everything; she could not even take herself to the bathroom.

Watch Gwen’s story:

While family caregiving is a big job, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gwen:

At the end of the day when I hear her say before she lays down to go to sleep, ‘I love you’ and ‘Thank you for taking care of me,’ it makes it all worth it. I’d do it a million times over.

Janice cares for her son, who suffered severe injuries in a car accident last year:

It’s hard work and I get so tired sometimes. But you have to just keep going because you love them so much.

To help family caregivers like Gwen and Janice, AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to help make these big responsibilities a little bit easier. Across the states, we’re fighting for more support, help at home, training, workplace flexibility and more. In fact, right now, 32 bills that would help family caregivers are pending in 22 states. Here are some highlights:

  • Connecticut: The Constitution State is considering the Caregiver, Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act to support family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital, and provide training on the medical tasks they will need to perform once their loved one returns home. AARP’s Connecticut State Director Nora Duncan called the acta commonsense, no-cost solution that will help ease some of the heavy burden placed on family caregivers, and help prevent unnecessary and costly hospital readmissions.”
  • Indiana: Hoosier and family caregiver Tish expressed her need for support while sharing her story: “I hope we have her for many more years, but having instruction from qualified medical professionals is what I really need.” Fortunately, Indiana is considering the CARE Act, and the House Public Health Committee will vote on Wednesday.
  • Virginia: The CARE Act has already passed both the Virginia House and Senate and now awaits Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s signature.
  • Mississippi: The CARE Act passed the Mississippi State Senate this month and is being considered in the House. AARP Mississippi will be drumming up support for the act with an “I Heart Caregivers Day” this week at the state Capitol.
  • West Virginia: The West Virginia House Health Committee voted unanimously to support the CARE Act last week. The bill now may be heard on the House floor as early as this week.

You can help!
To all family caregivers, help us fight for you and your families by sharing your story. The power of your stories drives the change needed to better support you, our unsung heroes.

 Share your story: aarp.org/iheartcaregivers

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Elaine Ryan is the vice president of State Advocacy and Strategy Integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

Follow Elaine on Twitter: @RoamTheDomes.

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