The average is the borderline that keeps mere men in their place. Those who step over the line are heroes by the very act. GO!
--Walter M. Schirra, Sr.
Every September 11th we honor those lost in the attacks and also commemorate the bravery of America's first responders on that tragic day.
While I spend every September 11 never forgetting what happened, I'm also reminded that every day America's family caregivers are the "first responders" in the health care crisis we have in this country. Without our caregivers, the health care system would simply come to a screeching halt.
Here is what we know:
Family caregivers provide 80 percent of the long-term care to keep loved ones aging in place in their own home. Whether caring for loved ones who are older, stricken by a chronic illness or those who have physical and mental disabilities – caregivers are the heroes who step over that borderline every day and rise to the occasion.
Over the next 15 years, our senior population over age 65 will double – from the 35 million today to more than 70 million. That means a lot more of us will become caregivers for our aging Baby Boomer population.
There are not enough doctors in the geriatric field nor nurses who choose this specialty – so we have a huge gap in our professional health care ranks to care for Older Americans – a gap that the family caregivers are filling.
Family caregivers are overwhelmed and often do this job alone. This typically means they put everyone else first – their children, spouse, job, person they are caring for – leaving precious little time to focus on themselves.
This is why studies show us that caregivers are twice as likely as the general population to have multiple chronic illnesses earlier in life. The stress and neglect of their own health and wellness needs means they can become more ill than the person they are caring for.
So, today, as we honor all of our nation's heroes – those lost or providing rescue on September 11th, our troops around the world and their families, let's also do something for the Caregiving First Responders – whether it's a hug, a "thank you," or a phone call – they deserve our support and gratitude as well.
Given the many crucial issues surrounding the physical, mental, emotional, and lifestyle demands associated with caregiving, it’s important for families to be aware of where to go for answers, support, and encouragement.
Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease: A Guide for the Home Caregiver
by Peter Rabins, M.D., MPH, and Ann Morrison, RN, Ph.D.