There are more than 65 million family caregivers across America. Family Caregivers come in many forms; a son or daughter caring for an aging parent(s), a parent caring for an ill child, a grandparent caring for their sick adult son or daughter or grandchild, a spouse caring for their ill wife or husband, and the list goes on and on.
The concept of caring for family members in time of illness or need is “as right as rain.” Many countries outside of the US, (some Asian & European countries) continue today to share homes across generations of family members, generally a son or daughter raises their family in the same home as their parents or in a home that shares the property with the parents. Or, aging parents move in with a son or daughter as they grow older and begin to require more care. As a result, family care giving is a natural way of life, a progression that has spanned generations, in some parts of the world, outside of the US. I would point out that many family caregivers in other countries are female, and in homes where the woman of the house is just that, she is a homemaker versus a female working outside the home.
In a report by the Census Bureau (prior to the 2007-08 economic crisis in the US where many jobs have been lost), only 7 percent of all U.S. households consisted of married couples with children in which only the husband worked. Dual-income families with children made up more than two times as many households. Even families with two incomes and no children outnumbered the traditional family by almost two to one. (This report still refers to a traditional family as married couples with children).
Obviously, two-income families struggle when the need arises within a family that requires part or full time family care giving. Who takes off work, how much time will employers allow their employees to take off work to care for family members? Some employees are eligible for the Family Leave Act, allowing twelve weeks of unpaid leave, within a 12 month period. Other states have periods of leave that may be less than 12 weeks, but all are unpaid. How many situations where care is required, does the need end within twelve weeks?
These are certainly not questions that I pondered prior to the time that I started assisting in my own Mother’s health care. I never realized what it is like to manage something as delicate as someones health when it is in a state of decline. The medical system is a complicated web to navigate, a lot of red tape to cut through, and that is just managing through the health care system itself. None of this takes into account the emotional side of caring for an ill family member.
The National Family Caregivers Association has implemented some amazing initiatives to assist family caregivers. Not only for how to navigate the system in a more productive manner, but programs that address the emotional side of being a family caregiver. These programs are some of the most progressive and forward thinking from any I have learned of, and they deserve to be mentioned here.
As a means to educate, provide support, and connect family caregivers to a community and each other, NFCA created the state network of NFCA volunteers known as the Caregiver Community Action Network, (CCAN). CCANers have all had their own family caregiving experience and now assist others to find information and the support in an effort to improve their family caregiving experience and to aid in the development of important bonds with other family caregivers.
The Caregiver Story Project: The NFCA “Caregiver Story Project” is an opportunity for family caregivers to share their caregiving journeys and to learn from and help one another. We are especially interested in caregiver experiences related to the financial strain of caregiving and any difficulties you have had with the health care system, including frustrations coordinating your loved one’s care with all of the many health care professionals with whom you are involved.
E-Communities: Connecting family caregivers directly to other family caregivers in their own cities and states to share information and resources.
Family Caregiver Forum: Sometimes the best information and advice comes from other family caregivers. The Family Caregiver Forum, brought to you by Intel Health, is a place to bring your questions, find support, and take part in general discussions on topics relevant to family caregiving.
The Family Caregiver Pen Pal Program
There are over 800 personal stories in the Story Project.
Family caregivers connecting directly with other family caregivers is the core of NFCA’s new Pen Pal Program. Now you can reach out to others living with similar situations that you face every day. How are other family caregivers dealing with the highs and lows of care giving? Find your family caregiver pen pal right here and start realizing the many ways you can help each other.
How this works:
It all starts with NFCA’s National Story Project, a collection of heart-felt stories about the family caregiving experience. All family caregiving stories are welcome.
To find a Pen Pal, search through stories , “Looking for a Pen Pal” as that will pull up a selection of stories by family caregivers willing to be Pen Pals.
When you click on the Contact button you will see a form asking you to submit your own information and this will be automatically sent directly to the family caregiver you have requested. Due to the busy schedules of family caregivers, NFCA cannot guarantee they will respond.
NFCA hopes this opens up wonderful new opportunities for connecting family caregivers.
My favorite among the personal caregiver projects would be the Pen Pal program. Do you know what it could mean to a caregiver to have a friend? An objective person that they could vent to, talk to freely and openly – just someone to be on the other end of an email to listen?
Think about it – I am sure there is a caregiver out there waiting who would love to have a Pen Pal! Click on any of the highlighted links above to go directly to the National Family Caregivers Association website. pkp