En español | When people talk about family caregivers, Millennials are not always part of the conversation. Yet as the report Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 found, close to 1 in 4 family caregivers (24%) are Millennials.
In addition to advocating for older Americans in the halls of Congress, AARP staff and volunteers are working on the ground in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to make a difference in people’s lives through advocacy. This year, we have helped enact state policies to support more than 30 million family caregivers and provide thousands of workers with a new way to save for retirement.
Being a family caregiver — that is, providing unpaid care to a parent, spouse, friend or other adult loved one — is hard work. It can also be rewarding work. The struggles, frustrations and stress associated with this caregiving journey cross gender lines. While the “typical” family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who takes care of a relative, 4 out of 10 caregivers are men. [i]
Families and close friends are the most important source of support to older people and adults with a chronic, disabling or serious health condition. They already take personal responsibility for providing increasingly complex care to the tune of $470 billion (as of 2013). That figure, representing family caregivers’ unpaid contribution in dollars, roughly equals the combined sales of the four largest U.S. tech companies (Apple, IBM, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft, $469 billion) in 2013.
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:
Across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP is fighting to help families address important day-to-day issues — from caring for a loved one to retiring with confidence. In fact, this year alone we’ve successfully fought to bring more support to millions of family caregivers and help millions of workers save for retirement.
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.
Eleven years ago, Allen returned from Iraq, having survived an IED blast that inflicted both significant physical and emotional harm. This military veteran, husband, and father of two young children now faced a life-changing, long and tough road to recovery. Standing by him, as she promised “in sickness and in health,” is his wife of 16 years, Chasity. For this full-time teacher and mom, the day Allen came home, injured and anxious, her life was changed dramatically. She was thrust into a new, overwhelming role: caring 24/7 for her husband.
In preparing Mom’s medication, my 90-year-old Pop would fill a syringe using the light of the kitchen window to see if the dosage was correct. He set up the nebulizer on a table with handwritten step-by-step instructions to remind him how to operate it. Today, millions of family caregivers like Pop perform complex medical tasks that at one time would have been administered only by medical professionals.
The phone rang one day when I was at work. It was my mom. “Come right away, Elaine, we need you,” she said. Mom had just driven Pop to the emergency room. I knew Pop must have been very sick, because Mom hadn’t driven a car in years.
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