Idaho’s estimated 300,000 caregivers – parents, sons and daughters, spouses, friends and neighbors – provide more than 201 million hours in uncompensated care annually. Acknowledging their service, Gov. Butch Otter recognized November 2018 as National Family Caregiver Month.
Across Idaho, family caregivers often balance full- or part-time employment with managing the health and medical needs of their loved ones. Although they do this work willingly, it comes at a cost. Caregivers can lose up to $600,000 in wages over a lifetime, and nationally, employers lose approximately $33.6 billion in productivity annually, according to the Idaho Caregiver Alliance.
The alliance, formed in 2012 through a partnership between Boise State University’s Center for the Study of Aging and the Idaho Commission on Aging, brings together more than 50 public and private organizations and 400 individual members, including caregivers. The alliance serves as a statewide voice for this critically important but often invisible constituency.
Each year, the alliance helps identify and support caregivers by holding a caregiver conference. The next conference is scheduled for Feb. 9, 2019, on the Boise State campus.
Many times, caregivers do not recognize themselves as such. This unnecessarily can limit their access to the resources and support they need to avoid burnout, which is why public awareness and recognition by public officials like Gov. Otter is so important.
Family caregivers coordinate and provide complex medical and mental health services and navigate financial and legal challenges. This essential role is often overlooked, as are the negative health, employment and emotional impacts experienced by caregivers. The need for respite care – an occasional break from caregiving – is critical for the health of caregivers.
Whether caring for a young child with disabilities, an adult with a serious illness, or a senior with memory loss, each caregiver serves a unique and vital role. The Idaho Caregiver Alliance urges everyone to recognize and celebrate the contributions of these caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month.