Each November, I feel thankful not only because it is the season of Thanksgiving and I have an abundance for which to be grateful but because it’s National Family Caregivers Month—a time to recognize and be thankful for selfless family members who provide care for those they love. Inevitably, I am reminded of all the days I spent caring for my own mother as she aged and eventually faded from this life.
Her dying and my caregiving is a bittersweet memory for me. It was mentally and physically challenging–to a far greater extent than I had anticipated. However, it was also a time when I felt close to her, learned from her, felt needed by her and inspired by her will to live and love me.
Like my mother, older adults often rely on their families for support. However, the role of families’ responsibilities in the care of their loved ones is complex. The family structure has changed over the last several decades. Older adults have fewer children to rely on for care in later years. Families are spread out geographically making hands-on care more difficult. The economic downturn in the last decade has depleted some people’s resources for financial supporting of aging loved ones. Many caregivers put their own fiscal well-being in jeopardy by assuming the financial responsibility of others, not to mention the toll caregiving takes on emotional and physical well-being due to ongoing intensive caregiving responsibilities.
The responsibility of caregiving has become one of the most import issues for many societies to address in the 21st century. While it is true that individuals are living longer, they are often living with chronic conditions that require some level of assistance. However, caring for a family member can be demanding and often competes with other responsibilities, such as caring for children or a job.
Let us each take time to celebrate and acknowledge those who provide care for family members. Aging demands a complex network of support with every twist and turn along the way. My experience with my mother has taught me the vital need for every human being to feel connected– connected to their histories, their communities and their families. Family caregivers are making this happen for many elders. For this, they deserve many thanks!