Caregivers tell us what they need most

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65 million people. That’s more than the total populations of California and Texas, combined. And it’s the number of family caregivers in the US who, day in and day out, do the incredibly important but undervalued work of caring for aging loved ones or people with disabilities.

And when we add in the number of professional caregivers — home care workers, certified nursing assistants, hospice caregivers, and more — we’re looking at 70 million people who are part of the Care Force in our country alone.

Chances are, you’re a caregiver or know someone who is. And this work isn’t easy. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, family caregivers provide an average of 20 hours of care per week, with the majority caring for an aging loved one. And for most, caregiving isn’t limited to a few months, or even a year — NAC’s research found that caregiving lasts an average of almost five years.

Coupled with the challenges of working while caregiving — the reality for 70 percent of all caregivers — and caregiving is, in the words of one of our online members, “the most rewarding, most difficult job I’ve ever had.”

To kick off National Family Caregivers Month, we asked our Facebook community what they felt caregivers need most to not only survive, but to thrive.

Here’s just a few examples of what they had to say:

More financial support

Mary Paula Van Wert: Caregivers need gas money. Medical appointments ran my family into debt just transporting our loved one.

Jessica Gonzalez: To not have to worry about paying for care. Once that is taken care of they can work on taking care of themselves.

Richard Rond: Tax breaks and time off. It’s a 24-hour job.

Emotional support

Dot Liddle: The one thing I would say a caregiver needs, and there are many, is knowing someone cares about them. Having tended to my husband who had a terminal lung disease and at the end was bedridden for a year, I felt like I was in solitary confinement. Just having someone to lean on and pour out frustration is important! At the same time, I had elderly parents and in-laws and was involved with them also. My dad passed away at the age of 99 1/2 last year, so I believe I have just about earned a degree in caregiving. Just knowing others care means so much but it is not the only answer to what a caregiver needs.

Karen Koenig: Sometimes just a listening ear. We need to vent, cry, talk. No solutions to our problems. Just a kind listening ear. We see a lot, do a lot, worry, and feel guilty, sad, and overwhelmed.

Recognition and understanding

Carla Johnson: Care givers need love and respect for what they do. They also need someone to listen to their needs without passing judgment or giving them advice. They need a little time for themselves as well.

Linda Graf-wilcox: Understanding. Try to understand why we do what we do for our loved ones. We have so many tell us why don’t you place him/her in a nursing home. Or, when are you going to place him/her in a nursing home. Does anyone even TRY to understand?

Elisa Sanchez: Caregivers need respect and should not be treated like a second class citizens. They are committed to taking care of an elder who needs care, compassion, and love.

Patricia A. Vitela:  Appreciation, acknowledgement, and help.

Evelyn H. Clay: More love and respect.

Time to recharge

Cecilia Bland Ruff: A day or two of respite care once in a while from a supportive family member.

Valerie Ford: Have an ear, a free friend to take you to dinner. A day of fun once in a while. A much-needed, well-earned break. Understanding relatives that don’t preach when they visit but actually take over for a day. One day a year would be nice!

Susan Campbell Elliott: A little break every once in a while to relax, recharge, and recuperate and to just focus on our own personal needs so that we can recalibrate and continue doing what we love!

Krystina Davis: All caregivers need two things: respite and a reliable resource for care needs of their loved one. Often caregivers don’t know where to turn or who to ask when they need things or help.

Jeannie Johnson: At least one whole day to myself once in awhile.

And finally…

Elisa L. Ortiz-Melendez: All of the above!

What do you think? Tell us what you think caregivers need most!