November was National Family Caregiver Month
By Marilyn Sword
One in four Idahoans is a caregiver. These parents, sons and daughters, spouses, friends and neighbors, provide more than 201 million hours in uncompensated care annually. Acknowledging their service, Gov. Butch Otter recognized November 2018 as National Family Caregiver Month, hailing the contributions of Idaho’s estimated 300,000 family caregivers. And although the month is over, the number of caregivers and their need for supports and information has not. In fact, with medical advances and an aging population, it will only grow.
Across Idaho, family caregivers often balance full- or part-time employment with managing the health and medical needs of their loved ones. Although they do this work willingly, it comes at a cost. Caregivers can lose up to $600,000 in wages over a lifetime, and nationally employers lose approximately $33.6 billion in productivity annually, according to Idaho Caregiver Alliance.
The Alliance, formed in 2012 through a partnership between the Center for the Study of Aging at Boise Site and the Idaho Commission on Aging, brings together more than 50 public and private organizations and 400 individual members, including caregivers of individuals across the lifespan. The Alliance serves as a statewide voice for this critically important but often invisible constituency. Each year, the Alliance helps to identify and support caregivers by holding a caregiver conference. The next conference is scheduled for February 9, 2019 at Boise State and registration is now open.
Many times, caregivers do not recognize themselves as such. This can unnecessarily limit
their access to the resources and support they need to avoid burnout. That is why public awareness and this recognition by public officials like Governor Otter is so important.
Family caregivers coordinate and provide complex medical and mental health services and navigate financial and legal challenges. This essential role is often overlooked as are the negative health, employment and emotional impacts experienced by caregivers. The need for respite care (an occasional break from caregiving) is critical for the health of caregivers. Developing and enhancing local respite programs is a key initiative for the Alliance and the Idaho Commission on Aging.
If you are caring for a child with disabilities, an adult with a serious illness, or a senior with memory loss, the Idaho Caregiver Alliance is here for YOU! Each of you serves a vital and unique role and does not need to be on their journey alone.
For more information, or to be added to the mailing list contact the Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org Look for them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.