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11/24: Holiday Gifts for Caregivers—Part 1

November 23, 2015

This time of year, our thoughts turn to family and friends, celebrating relationships, and giving to others. I would like to list my own personal recommendations on gifts family caregivers could use this holiday season and beyond.

Gift #1: Respite

Seriously. If we are serious about supporting families, let’s give those who care full-time (most caregivers are more than full-time) two weeks of respite a year. Everyone needs a substantial break–caregivers most of all.

Gift #2: Financial security

Many family caregivers have to quit their jobs to take care of their family member. With this occurring, there is a loss of accrual of Social Security credits that can mean lower income in retirement. Especially hard hit are women in lower income careers. Family caregivers should not have to choose between caregiving and a bleak economic future–especially since most caregivers understand that their “work” saves money for larger community and government in particular. Allow those who leave employment to continue to accrue Social Security credits so they can live with dignity in their older years.

Gift #3: A trained workforce

Workforce training takes a number of forms: medical staff who are trained to include family caregivers as part of the care team; medical specialists, nurses, and social workers who understand geriatric care issues and cognitive impairments; aides who are trained to handle behavioral challenges; and the basic challenge of taking just a bit of time combined with a bit of patience to listen to the patient and the family.

Gift #4: Patient- and family-centered care

Family caregivers need health and social service systems that value informal caregiving. This means putting in place a formalized process for identifying caregivers and assessing of the unique needs of families. But it is not only assessment; it is a set of services and supports that should be tailored to the family situation that needs to be provided.

Gift #5: Paid family leave

So far, only three states offer paid family leave to employed caregivers. Every state should have this self-funded option so those who care can temporarily leave their jobs to take care of relatives. The sticking point is that every state needs to pass legislation establishing paid family leave policies and also develop the mechanism to collect and disburse paid family leave funds. Let’s ensure that every state has a paid family leave option for new parents and eldercare–experiences that just about every family faces at some point.

— Kathleen Kelly, MPA, Executive Director, Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving

Author’s Note:
This blog post was originally published in 2012. I looked at it again and decided that it needed another viewing with updates. These gifts are still wrapped and ready to be given if we can find the will to truly support caregiving families in this holiday season and beyond.





View all 30 Days of Caregiving blogs (to date) at caregiver.org/blog.