Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Give Thanks for Caregivers

As we end the semester and approach Thanksgiving, three thoughts converged into this one post.  November is National Caregivers Month.  We all know that caregiving is a 24/7, 365 job with no end date, so services available to caregivers are particularly important.  I’ve been thinking about how to write about it other than say “hey this is National Caregivers Month”. So here is what I came up with for you.

I always try to instill in my students a sense of reality about elder law. I emphasize to them that the cases we read are not just an abstract exercise but are about real people and real lives.  When they practice law, they represent actual clients, not hypotheticals from a casebook.

My sister is an actual case in point; she is a caregiver by acceptance, and perhaps by choice. (I live half-way across the country from them). My sister is one of the strongest people I know. She is also a caregiver for my 80-something mom.  After years of providing supportive caregiving for my mom, as my mom’s needs changed, my mom moved in with my sister, so my sister is one of those 24/7, 365 caregivers.  For a while she juggled a job, a life and caregiving. Her job is now my mom and her 8 year old grandson (life happened and my sister stepped up and obtained guardianship over her 8 year old grandson). So she’s now a multi-generational caregiver. Somehow she has managed to maintain the energy, innovation and enthusiasm needed to raise an 8 year old boy tempered with the patience and caring needed by our mother.  Day in, day out.  As I said, she’s one of the strongest people I know.

The Administration on Aging offers some statistics about caregivers:  almost 30% of folks in the US are caregivers for a person who is ill, elderly or has a disability. As we all know, like my sister, there are more women who are caregivers than men (AoA estimates 2/3).  There are also a list of programs and services for caregivers on the AoA site and the Administration for Community Living site. AARP as well offers resources for caregivers, and I'm sure there are more.

So here is how I tied together these 3 separate thoughts.  We all have a likelihood of becoming caregivers at some point in our lives.  I can tell my students about my sister, to help them personalize the lesson about family caregivers while I teach them about personal services contracts, joint ownership of assets, property management techniques, fiduciary obligations, and more.  And Thanksgiving falls in November, National Caregivers Month, so on Thanksgiving this year, let’s add a thank you to all the caregivers out there.  They truly do ROCK!!!

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