Celebrating Caregivers during Older Americans Month

Since 1963—more than 50 years ago!—Americans have recognized May as Older Americans Month. The observance provides an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the contributions of older individuals – past and present. In fact, there are events, ceremonies and fairs in honor of our older citizens all across the country. (Closer to home, Capital Caring is doing our part with an expo designed to celebrate older Americans and their caretakers, as you’ll see below.)

The designation and recognition is especially important as America continues to age. No matter where we are on the age spectrum, our role with our families – whether we are related or connected through years of friendship – may eventually involve more responsibilities and different relationships. If a loved one faces a serious chronic condition or advanced illness, the title of “caregiver” may be added to that of family member or friend.

A caregiver may be a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor–anyone who assists another, usually at home. Functions are often broad, ranging from being a companion to a decision-maker or health care advocate to financial manager, and much more.

The nature of the caregiver’s role is captured by this year’s theme for Older Americans Month: Connect, Create, Contribute — establishing or deepening connection, creating a supportive, caring environment and contributing to the quality of life, no matter at what stage.

A few key facts reveal how critical all caregivers are to individuals, families and the community:

  • An estimated 44 million people serve as unpaid caregivers in the United States each year.
  • Sixty-six percent of caregivers are female: the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and provides 20 hours per week of unpaid care to her mother.
  • Sixty-five percent of seniors with advanced care needs rely exclusively on family and friends for assistance. Another 30% supplement family care with paid assistance.
  • The estimated annual value of total unpaid assistance is estimated to be at least $306 billion. That’s nearly double the combined cost of home healthcare and nursing home care.

At Capital Caring, we know well the value of every caregiver. In fact, sometimes that person is the spouse or partner who is also a senior. That’s why our daily support of patients extends to families and caregivers as part of our mission to offer comfort and enhance quality of life.

Our support services are comprehensive and include practical help such as bringing everything needed to the home — a hospital bed, oxygen, medications and more.

We also understand that dealing with the advanced illness of a loved one and serving as a caregiver can be physically and emotionally challenging and stressful. We offer coaching to make sure every caregiver is comfortable in their role. Capital Caring also offers counseling, pastoral counseling and temporary respite care when the caregiver needs a break..

Once our care for advanced illness begins, a significant part of the care burden can be lifted or shared. Our care team of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, counselors and volunteers provide physical, emotional and spiritual support allowing you to focus on your loved one.

No matter who the Older American is in your life – including you! – the month of May is a time to celebrate and appreciate their contributions. And, if you’re a caregiver, please make sure to acknowledge your own role for what a difference you make.

Celebrating Local Caregivers

On May 11, Capital Caring will celebrate local family caregivers with a free day filled with appreciation, information and advice. Free respite care is available upon request.

Hosted in partnership with AARP and Virginia Hospital Center, the Expo will feature speakers on such topics as Alzheimer’s and dementia, caring for someone with chronic pain, navigating the health care system, and advance care planning.

Expo participants include more than 35 local experts in home care, elder law, financial planning, and other caregiver services. Free massages, health screenings and refreshments will also be available. To learn more and/or register, click here.

Among the attendees we expect to see at our Caregiving Expo are volunteers who help us deliver the best care and support possible. Included in the group of those who volunteer with Capital Caring — making a commitment to connect, create and contribute — are individuals who are also “Older Americans.”