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Thanksgiving: Profile of a Caregiver

by Betty Soldz

November is National Caregivers month. While many people recognize that women are the nation's caregivers, few realize the impact it has on the quality of their lives, especially in regard to health and financial stability.

As caregivers, women provide a valuable, unpaid service not only to those they care for, but to the society as a whole. Unfortunately, women's caregiving roles severely impact not just their financial security, but their emotional and physical well-being. The pressures of caregiving are great, and without needed support and respite, women are at high risk for emotional stress and physical injury. In fact, two out of three caregivers report poor health.

As a member of Greater Boston OWL, The Voice of Mid-life and Older women, I believe we need to recognize America's caregivers for their contribution to society. It is critical that such recognition focus on efforts to address the health and financial implications of caregiving. The need for caregivers will only increase in the coming years. As is often said, America is aging.

The United States now has over 50,000 elders over the age of 100. Many of their caregivers are women in their 70's and 80's; who are also caring for their spouse or companion. These caregivers are spending life savings to offer this care. Many have chronic illnesses themselves. Caregiving can leave them both ill and poor.

It is time our nation recognize the invaluable caregiving contributions of women by implementing policies and programs that protect their health and financial well-being. It is past time to support and enhance respite care and additional home health care and other programs that will aid the caregiver. These programs are not handouts, but services exchanged for services rendered.

Editor's Note: In this Thanksgiving and Holiday season, it is appropriate to find those neighbors and acquaintances who are involved in a caregiving role. Extend a hand to help in a task that is becoming much more common and might someday be yours, if it isn't already.


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