This Year, I’m Thankful for Family Caregivers


Nancy was caring for her mother and husband, raising four children, and working full time when she ended up in the hospital, suffering from exhaustion. It was then that she realized that she couldn’t help her loved ones unless she also took care of herself.

Like Nancy, many family caregivers are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to helping their older parents, spouses and other loved ones, they work full or part time, raise children and so much more.

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During recent tele-town halls in Indiana and Mississippi, family caregivers shared their need to take a hard-earned break. In fact, every day we hear from family caregivers like Nancy.

  • Wayne from Connecticut cares for his wife: “Although I find caregiving a labor of love, my main need is periodical respite.”
  • Marilyn from Pennsylvania cared for her mother: “It was a 24/7/365 job… I spent every waking hour with her.”
  • Luz from the Virgin Islands cares for both her parents: “I've retired so that I could move back and assist and now I take care of my parents 24/7… I don’t take breaks. I’d have to have someone take care of them.”

This year, AARP fought in states across the country to ensure that respite care programs — such as adult day services or periodic visits in the home — are available for family caregivers in their communities. These programs help family caregivers to take a break so they have the strength, energy and spirit to carry on. While several states increased funding for respite care services, it is clear more needs to be done.

Happy Thanksgiving
To all the family caregivers out there, this year, I’m thankful for you; thank you for all that you do each and every day.  I wish you and your families a happy and safe Thanksgiving, one that also includes some time to take care of you.

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If you’re a family caregiver, you’re not alone.

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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