One of the most important jobs

It seems only fitting that 100-plus Women Who Care in Dickinson County chose Family Ties Adult Center as the recipient of its latest fund-raising effort.

At the group’s last quarterly meeting of the year, after listening to three presentations, the membership selected Family Ties Adult Center to receive their generous donation of $19,500.

Family Ties is designed to help meet the needs of adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other debilitating diseases.

Family Ties also provides respite care for family caregivers, giving them time to attend to their other daily responsibilities or needs. For many families, it provides another option other than nursing home placement, which eases the financial and emotional burden for all involved.

November is National Caregivers Month. It is a time to acknowledge the important role that family, friends and neighbors play in caring for sick, elderly and disabled friends and relations

Some 65.7 million caregivers make up 29 percent of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging.

Wanda could be one of those caregivers. Wanda goes to work early.

She makes her calls, meets her clients and grabs lunch when she can.

She is often tired, and every once in awhile she gives in to the need to rest her eyes.

At 5:30 p.m., Wanda looks at the clock. It may signify the end of the day for some, but Wanda races to her other ‘job.’

She is a caregiver.

There are 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S., described as those who provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend.

The caregiving role can sometimes be a thankless job, but is one of the most important jobs in society.

Many caregivers work two ‘jobs’ – one as a caregiver and the other in their own industry or profession.

They often give up their own needs for the one they treat.

National Family Caregivers Month, sponsored by the National Family Caregivers Association, is designed to focus on the many challenges facing family caregivers, draw support for stronger public policy to address family caregiving issues, and raise awareness about community programs that support family caregivers.

Caregiving Facts

– More women than men are caregivers. An estimated 66 percent are female. One-third takes care of two or more people, and the average age of a female caregiver is 48.

– The estimated value of the “free” services provided by those caring for loved ones who are frail, chronically ill or disabled is conservatively estimated to be $306 billion annually.

– Caregivers providing care for a family member over the age of 50 routinely underestimate the length of time they will spend as caregivers – only 46 percent expected to be caregivers longer than two years. In fact, the average length of time spent on caregiving was about eight years, with approximately one third providing care for 10 years or more.

– Most women will spend 17 years caring for children and 18 years helping an elderly parent.

– Family caregiving can extend for a few years or a lifetime.

– Both male and female children of aging parents make changes at work in order to accommodate caregiving responsibilities.

– By the year 2030, nearly 150 million Americans will have some type of chronic illness.

“Across our country, more than 60 million Americans take up the selfless and unheralded work of delivering care to seniors or people with disabilities or illnesses,” said President Barack Obama in a Presidental Proclamation. “The role they play in our health care system is one we must recognize and support. During National Family Caregivers Month, we thank these tireless heroes for the long, challenging work they perform behind closed doors and without fanfare every day, and we recommit to ensuring the well-being of their loved ones and of the caregivers themselves.”

Ways to celebrate National Family Caregivers Month:

– Offer a few hours of respite time to a family caregiver so they can spend time with friends, or simply relax.

– Send a card of appreciation or a bouquet of flowers to brighten a family caregiver’s day.

– Encourage local businesses to offer a free service for family caregivers through the month of November.

– Help a family caregiver decorate their home for the holidays or offer to address envelopes for their holiday cards.

– Offer comic relief. Purchase tickets to a comedy movie at a local theater, give a family caregiver your favorite funny movie to view, or provide them with a book on tape.

– Find 12 different photos of the caregiver’s family and friends. Create a 2014 calendar that the family caregiver can use to keep track of appointments and events.

– Offer to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for a caregiving family in your community, so they can just relax and enjoy the holiday.

– Take a few minutes to write a letter. Encourage your faith community to ask for prayers not only for those who are ill, but also those who care for them.

– Help a family caregiver find new educational materials and support through family caregiving web sites or by calling Family Ties Adult Center for help.