This month we honor our family members who care for those of us with disabilities. They are a large invisible, unpaid, often unthanked workforce. Their work is often considered informal.Sure, there are professional caregivers. They are paid, often trained for the tasks they undertake, and have limited roles in the lives of those who depend on them.
But in the US, three-quarters of caregiving is performed by family members. Over 65 million people in the US care for a family member or a friend who is disabled, chronically ill, or aged over 70. About two-thirds of these caregivers are women, and many are also caring for their own children or grandchildren.
Caregiving can involve unpleasant and embarrassing tasks. As Mike Ervin famously said, “Blessed are the butt-wipers.” Caregiving can be extremely intimate.
Family caregiving is tiring and highly stressful. Almost three-quarters of family caregivers show signs of depression. The National Alliance for Caregiving advocates for improving the mental and emotional health of family caregivers through a “whole health system approach.” We need to take better care of our family caregivers.
Rosalynn Carter said, “There are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers. Caregiving is universal.” That’s well worth remembering, if you are not yet giving or receiving care.
To learn more about family caregiving and to access caregiving support, please visit the poster set “November is National Family Caregivers Month” on Virtual Ability’s Healthinfo Island: