Family Caregivers Provide an Invaluable Service to Loved Ones
Columnist Ray Burow recognizes the millions of unpaid caregivers in the US
Following Thanksgiving, Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month both come to a close. Isn’t it interesting that caregivers are celebrated in the same month set aside to give thanks? It’s appropriate since the nation owes the men and women who provide unpaid care a debt of gratitude.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of caregivers in the United States increased from 43.5 million in 2015 to 53 million in 2020. And as the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2022 Facts and Figures report notes, “Family members and friends provided more than $271 billion in unpaid care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2021.” This amounts to almost half of Walmart’s total revenue in fiscal year 2020.
The Facts and Figures report also notes that, of the caregivers who provide help to older adults, 83% are unpaid and 48% are caring for someone with a form of dementia. This means that 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
If you’re part of this group, I join the nation in saluting you this Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately, many family caregivers don’t connect themselves with these statistics. We believe we’re merely taking care of our own. But we’re all members of a great movement, an invisible workforce. Without family caregivers, the U.S. couldn’t provide for the millions of seniors unable to care for themselves. Let’s take a minute to embrace that truth this holiday season.
Looking to the future
The demand for caregivers is increasing. The CDC estimates that by 2030, 73 million Americans will be 65 or older. For most people, symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear in their mid-60s or later. Weighing these numbers with our dreams for the future can be scary.
Caregivers will continue to rise to the occasion, caring for people they love. However, carers are aging, too. There’s no guarantee that today’s caregivers won’t need care themselves by 2030. Should that leave us wringing our hands and dreading tomorrow? Of course not.
No one knows for sure what the future will hold. As caregivers, we can’t live our lives dreading tomorrow, but we also can’t live as if tomorrow will never arrive. We hope that better days are coming for us and our loved ones. We strive to do everything we can right now, as it counts. We seek advice from professionals, healthcare providers, and family members, and plan for a bright future as best we can.
To my fellow caregivers, I hope you remember that there’s value in what you do every day. Doing laundry, making and remaking beds, setting appointments, cooking healthy meals, and all the other seemingly mundane caregiving tasks are works of love. I would argue that your value is too immense for statisticians to assign it a number. After all, how can you calculate the soft touch of a loving hand?
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.