This one goes out to those that care for others. The unsung heroes. The caregivers.
There are two types of caregivers, formal and informal. Formal caregivers are paid healthcare professionals, whereas informal caregivers are individuals that provide care to someone, usually a loved one or family member with no financial gain.
Most caregivers are the latter, family caregivers that offer time and attention to loved ones. According to a report by AARP in 2015, the majority of caregivers, a whopping 85%, are a relative of the person they are caring for. These people are not paid. While the movies may have us believe that they’re only doing it for the inheritance, soon to grow to discover themselves and love someone they didn’t before, it’s a much less romanticized version of that in truth. These individuals work backbreaking and tireless hours spending their own energy and oftentimes finances to help someone important to them. They take time out of their daily lives to care for their loved ones, often sacrificing their own needs to do so, and receive no monetary compensation.
It is no easy task either. For those family members that need complex and chronic care, 46% of family caregivers perform medical tasks, in addition to the cooking, cleaning, laundry and other tasks they handle. It can also be a time consuming commitment, spending 21 or more hours caring for others per week. That leaves little to no time for one’s self, especially if that family caregiver also has another job. In 2013 the value of unpaid healthcare exceeded the value of paid home care and Medicaid spending combined. This difficult and often thankless job is often more burden than reward.
Then there are the formal and paid caregivers. While this position has grown more in recent years, it is no less difficult or burdensome. These people may be more skilled or specialized in the medical tasks performed for patients, and unfortunately are often treated with less appreciation than they might hope for.
Those that are in the situation of needing care often are resentful and not at all thankful for the help. It’s not personal of course, it’s hard to be sick or an invalid. That word “invalid” is how many chronic care patients feel. Not valid. It’s hard to be nice to your nurse, spouse, cousin or friends while resenting and being angry at your own body. Only the few who deal well with difficult situations are highlighted by the media or movies, while in reality, there are many more that are not dealing well at all.
You can go into any hospital and talk to any nurse and they will tell you stories that make your hair stand on end about the way they have been treated by patients. Caregivers from all walks of life can tell you similar stories. Not all moments are good and not all are bad.
That is why today we recognize caregivers. From those that have the perfect patients with genuine rapport, to those that have patients that don’t know their names and are all but ignored as they perform their duties—know you are appreciated.