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January 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Adding Life to Years
by Dr. Larry Weiss
Center for Healthy Aging

Caregiving: Acknowledge and Honor!

Dr. Lawrence J. Weiss
Larry Weiss

“There are four kinds of people in this world: Those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” – Former first lady Rosalynn Carter

Clearly caregiving is a major issue and it impacts the majority of Americans today. According to the National Alliance on Caregiving, there are an estimated 67 million caregivers in the United States. Of this number, 4 million care for children, while 50 million care for adults, and 13 million care for both children and adults. Caregivers tend to be mainly women (66%), with an average age of 48. About one third of caregivers take care of more than two people, and 86 percent care for a family member. The value of the services family caregivers provide for "free," when caring for older adults, is estimated to be $375 billion a year. That is almost twice as much as is actually spent on homecare and nursing home services combined ($158 billion).

According to AARP and the National Alliance on Caregiving, the state of Nevada has more than 532,000 informal caregivers, and the value of informal caregiving in Nevada is said to be roughly $4 billion. In addition to the informal family caregiving, there are many caregivers that get paid. In fact, as the baby boomers become elders and acquire chronic illnesses, many more caregivers are in demand.

The Northern Nevada Caregiver Coalition which was formed over 12 years ago by Diane Ross and myself, among others, has developed the Caregiver Awards Luncheon. This affair occurs in November which is recognized as National Caregiver’s Month. On November 22, 1997, former President Clinton signed the first presidential proclamation in recognition of National Family Caregivers Week. Since 1997, every president has issued an annual proclamation appreciating family caregivers. What better way to honor our own caregivers and to do it in the national caregiver’s month.

Caregivers are acknowledged and honored at the Awards Luncheon which had 270 attendees and 95 honorees in seven different categories. All of the 95 caregivers are acknowledged and honored, but in each category we recognized a special person that went above and beyond. Here are those very special honorees in each category:

In addition, the Caregiver Coalition recognizes and honors a business that provides model caregiving benefits to its employees as the Outstanding Business Award. As more and more American adult workers grapple with caring for loved ones, the importance of companies to recognize the stress and need for paid time off to care for their loved one is vital. AARP Nevada, the 2017 Outstanding Business in Caregiving awardee, leads the way in making sure their employees can work and live to bring the best balance to life possible. AARP, through their employee policies of providing two weeks of paid leave for caregiving, have proven to be a leader in this arena. We honor them.

Last year the Nevada Caregiver Coalition initiated a perpetual award in memory of Jerry Cruitt who was a founding member of the Caregiver Coalition and was well known for his humanitarian service to the disabled, their caregivers, and the community in general. Jerry Cruitt was a champion caregiver who was a caring man that lovingly and graciously helped others. The first Jerry Cruitt Humanitarian Award went to Diane Ross for her service and dedication to caregivers and their families. This year the Caregiver Coalition voted to award this honor to The Community Foundation of Western Nevada for taking on the Caregiver Support Initiative. This initiative resulted in the creation of the WashoeCaregivers.org website and a guidebook that covers the basics of beginning care. Chris Askin, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada received the award.

One example of a volunteer that was recognized and honored at the Awards was Judy Humphrey. Judy works with hospice patients and assists with living rather than the dying of terminal patients. She stays with dying patients who do not have family or friends, reassuring the patient that they are not alone. Just recently she stayed with a dying man for 12 straight hours, refusing to leave his side. The man died peacefully with Judy’s loving presence assisting him. It turned out that the man had been abandoned by his mother when he was two, living with that loss his whole life until Judy provided the loving female presence saved for his final days. His parting gift was Judy’s compassion and steadfast commitment to seeing him through to his last breath. His last words were “Thank You”. What better way to “Add Life to Years”. Thank you Judy Humphrey and all of the 95 caregivers honored at the Nevada Caregiver Coalition’s Caregiver Awards Luncheon.

Lawrence J. Weiss, Ph.D. is CEO of the Center for Healthy Aging. Dr. Weiss welcomes your comments on this column. Write to him at larry@addinglifetoyears.com or c/o Center for Healthy Aging, 11 Fillmore Way, Reno, NV 89519.