Caregiving is a Mitzvah.

954517624This Friday, February 15, is National Caregivers Day. While we shouldn’t need a day to recognize the wonderful work of caregivers, it’s still a reminder to give thanks to a group of people who tirelessly give of themselves for others.

On a personal basis, caregiving was not something I thought about or understood earlier in life. Caregiving was for “old people”. I was not an old people (then). Both of my parents passed away quickly so I had little first-hand experience. My grandmother in Flushing, NY needed a caregiver in the last few years of her life as she lived until almost 100. That was my first experience. But when my sister, Barbara, had a serious car accident in 2011, I better understood the importance of a caregiver. My sister’s caregiver, Barb Gottshaw, is a wonderful person and a top professional. Her compassion and commitment to my sister went far beyond “work”. Though my sister passed away in 2016, Barb Gottshaw remains a part of our family.

On a professional basis I have also been fortunate to have gained a client, Griswold Home Care, a national business of caregiving across the U.S. Griswold is an industry leader, and was formed by Jean Griswold in 1982 in suburban Philadelphia. 37 years later they have the same commitment to those who have need that Jean Griswold did back in the early 80s. In fact I have had the opportunity to meet Allegra Chaney, who has worked as a caregiver for Griswold Home Care since 1982, and who has inspired a blog, Ask Allegra, a terrific resource for caregivers about caregiver issues.

But not all caregivers are “professional caregivers”, in fact the majority are family members. A few facts about family caregivers:

1. Approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months

2. The majority of caregivers are female, but 40 percent are male.

Of that group, nine-in-ten are providing care for an aging relative, and a plurality is caring for a parent, according to new data from the Bureau of Statistics

3. Adults ages 45 to 64 are the most likely to be caregivers.

In fact, about a quarter (23%) of adults ages 45 to 64 care for an aging adult.

4. Beyond physical caregiving, most caregiving for aging parents is  in the form of financial support or personal care.

More commonly, adults have helped their parent with errands, housework or home repairs and the dependence increases from there.

5. Emotional support is a big part of caregiving.

Most adults say they provide some emotional support for their aging parents, but more women say this than men.

6. Most adults who have helped an aging parent see it as rewarding.

Caregiving is not easy work. It can be physically and emotionally draining. As a profession the salaries are modest. As a family caregiver, the time commitment can be overwhelming. Yet there is tremendous dignity in caregiving.

7. There is a significant economic impact of family caregiving.

According to the Nation Bureau of Economic Research, economists project that the effects of caregiving, and the reduction in the percentage of the population in the workforce, will cut the nation’s economic output 17% by 2056

Caregiving is a mitzvah, and I am thankful personally and professionally to have a better appreciation of the importance of caregivers. Deepest thanks to Barb Gottshaw, Allegra Chaney, and to all family and professional caregivers on National Caregivers Day this Friday Feb 15 (and the other 364 days of the year).

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