As we kick-off National Volunteer Week, what words come to mind when you think about volunteers? Caring? Dedicated? Selfless? Perhaps all of the above? I’ll add two more . . . absolutely essential.
We certainly are living in very divisive times. On the big issues of the day, party and ideological lines are drawn with little, if any, common ground. And, the collegiality of Congresses past – the “disagree without being disagreeable” comity – seems like something for the history books. But is that really the whole story?
For family caregivers, the holidays can be a time of added stress and chaos, but they can also be a time of joy — and humor. Catherine, a family caregiver for her sister Lisa, shares:
Imagine you care for your 90-year-old mother with dementia. She lives with you in your Georgia home. You help her with bathing and dressing, drive her to the doctor, cook her meals, manage her medications and do anything else she needs. Last year you were appointed her legal guardian by the state of Georgia to help manage her finances and make decisions for her about health care and more.
During National Nurses Week (May 6–12, 2016), we celebrate nurses. I say, let’s celebrate nurses every day! Across the country, these hardworking professionals help us get and stay well, and provide comfort and care when we’re at our most vulnerable. In my experience, they do this with incredible skill as well as a smile.
It was a few days before Christmas when our family got the news that Mom would be in the hospital for the holidays. Family caregiving can be tough enough, but somehow it is a bit tougher when your loved one is in the hospital. My siblings and I sprang into action to develop a list of people who could visit Mom in the hospital on Christmas. We thought of presents like a new robe and slippers, a hair appointment when she came home to us, some music to lift her spirits. When we visited the hospital on Christmas Eve, Mom handed us her Christmas wish list. “Please get me everything on the list,” she said. On the list — a fruit basket, chocolates, restaurant gift certificates, lottery tickets and more. “It’s for the nurses and staff. I need to thank them tomorrow.” And, with that simple statement, Mom reminded us of the spirit of the season — it’s in giving that we receive.
Throughout my work to support family caregivers across the states, and my own caregiving journey, first lady Rosalynn Carter has been an inspiration. She is not only a leader in caregiving advocacy, education, research and support, but knows firsthand the joys and challenges of caregiving. Mrs. Carter first became a family caregiver at age 12 when her father was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, and went on to care for other family members over the years. Today she stands as a powerful voice for family caregivers as president of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving.
Let me start by saying, thank you State Sen. Debbie Smith (Nev.) for your leadership, courage and determination to fight for family caregivers and the older parents, spouses and other loved ones they help to remain in their homes.
This week, New Mexico becomes the fifth state in the nation to implement the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act. Passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Martinez, the Lay Caregiver Act, a version of the CARE Act, is a commonsense solution to help those caring for their older mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and other loved ones so they can live independently. The law ensures family caregivers have key support as their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.
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