Ever since starting as Caring Across Generations’ National Membership Organizer last year, I had heard about our Annual Field Gathering. I knew it was a time for family caregivers, partner organizations, and long-term care advocates – the real people who make up Caring Across Generations – to come together to plan the path forward for the #CaringMajority. I didn’t realize it would also be so powerful and energizing.
For two days we worked alongside each other, sharing long hours, intense workshops, and good food. We got outside too, taking part in a protest of MN Representative Jason Lewis. He needed to hear from us because of his support of the Republican-led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid.
But the times when I was the most excited and engaged came when I met family caregivers from across the country. I was most moved by a two-part family caregiver roundtable discussion. The room was filled with young family caregivers who are now paid in-home care workers, older lesbian caregivers whose partners have since passed away, and people who are actively caregiving for their parents or grandparents.
On the first day, we discussed the tremendous emotional stress, isolation, and guilt caused by family caregiving. On the second day, we brainstormed how to best build a space where family caregivers can advocate for and take action on their own needs and priorities.
Many participants spoke about how they would love to be able to access respite care. Others noted the importance of digital tools to keep overburdened family caregivers engaged in our work. And everyone was excited about how winning universal family care could have material benefits for caregivers’ lives.
These conversations reminded me that at the heart of every movement for social, racial, or economic justice are the real people struggling build their lives. And every one has a story to tell. Therefore, during the next few months, we will be sharing the experiences of some of the family caregivers across the country who attended our Annual Gathering. I can’t wait for you to get to know these amazing caregivers and the reasons why they fight!