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11/25: Holiday Gifts for Caregivers—Part 2

November 25, 2015

In the last blog post I suggested five gifts family caregivers could use right now: two weeks of respite, Social Security credits for those who leave their job to provide care, a trained workforce, and so on–all practical items. Today we turn to those gifts that capture public attention or change policy in a favorable direction. The following are my personal favorites in this category:

Gift # 6: National Day without Family Caregivers

We set aside the month of November to honor family caregivers, but what if we were to have a national day without family caregivers? What if we had every elected public official take care of our relatives for a day? Do you think they might look at these issues differently after a day of providing personal care, medication management, insurance wrangling, preparation of meals for special diets, and fielding calls from siblings about Mom’s care? What does this national one day of care cost? Approximately $129 million ($47 billion estimated value of informal care divided by 365 days).

Gift #7: Double the funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program

Doubling the funding would bring the amount to just over $300 million or about $4.75 for every family caregiver in the country. Not a bad investment for an average value of informal care per year of $8000 per family.  Hey, wait a minute! Doubling the appropriation would amount to a little over 2 days of care nationally (see Gift #6). Do you think after a National Day without Family Caregivers policy makers might see the value in supporting caregiving families? Doubling the support would be a boon to caregiving families everywhere.

Gift #8: Play Undercover Boss—caregiver style

For a day, have the boss exchange places with an employee who juggles job, family, and caregiving responsibilities. Here are the daily challenges: rise early and get Mom ready for the day, wait for the morning aide, then fight the traffic to get to work. While at work, answer phone calls from Mom asking about where her glasses are, when you are coming home, etc. Run home at lunch time to make sure Mom takes her meds (since you live in a state without nurse delegated tasks as part of home health aide responsibilities). Oh no! The afternoon aide has not arrived. Go into panic mode and call the home health agency to get a replacement. Where are those power point slides for the presentation this afternoon? And so it goes. No spouses, administrative assistants or private case managers allowed to help.

Gift #9: Seats for family caregivers at the national policy table

Family caregiver viewpoints need to be incorporated into decision making about chronic care management, end of life decisions, palliative care, community resource, and service allocations. Family Caregivers should no longer be the “silent partners” when decisions are made about policies and programs in the long-term care arena.

Gift #10: Accepting caregiving as just a part of life

And perhaps this is the most important message of all: at some point, all of us will be affected by illness or disabilities in our families or for ourselves. Caregiving affects not just us personally but also our community and ultimately our society. It is about relationships; the giving of assistance and perhaps the receiving of assistance in the future. Often given without reservations, sometimes begrudgingly, it is done out of love, respect, loyalty, duty or expectation of reciprocity. In this season of giving, we must also remember that it is not selfish to give to ourselves, too. A family caregiver burnt-out from constant stress is not only shortchanging their relative, they may also be shortening their own life. Taking care of yourself may just be the best gift you will unwrap this holiday season.  

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

Author’s Note:
This blog post was originally posted 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.