Caregiving touches us all

Within our families, neighborhoods, faith communities, workplaces, health care organizations and circles of friends, we all know people who are caregivers. Some are among the 14 million professionals whose job it is to care for others.

Others are among the nearly 85 million who help their family, friends or neighbors. In the words of Rosalyn Carter, “Caregiving is universal. There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Caregiving benefits us all

We all need what is given by caregivers. Every day, millions of ill, disabled, elderly and special-needs children depend on caregivers for help. Families and friends of those receiving help rely on caregivers to do the things that distance, time or other responsibilities keep them from doing themselves.

Our US healthcare and long-term care systems trust family caregivers to perform as “stand-in professionals,” or take over from the professionals when patients go home. As individuals and as a society, we count on caregivers to do their jobs.

Caregiving is costly

It impacts caregiver health and the bottom line. Caregivers report higher levels of stress and poorer health than the population at large. They are at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression and other chronic illnesses.1

Family caregivers have more than 15% lower median incomes than non-caregiving families.2

American businesses incur annual productivity losses of as much as $34 billion3 and increases of 8% on health benefits costs for their family caregiver employees.4

Professional caregivers in complex, resource-hungry systems face costs, as well. They struggle with dissatisfaction, turnover and staffing shortages that create costly patient complications and productivity problems.

Caregivers need help

Demand for care is rising as our population ages and technology advances, but resources are constrained by finances, and a significant health care workforce shortage. Caregivers are caught in the gap between looming needs and limited resources, taking-on increasingly complex medical/nursing tasks.

Dilemmas, desire and dedication are a potent, stressful mix. Caregivers know there are no easy solutions, yet thankfully, they continue to care.