I have served as a caregiver for my mother, and I know the many challenges caregivers face daily. My mother, as she aged, suffered complications from a stroke, and she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. As the family caregiver, I was responsible for seeing that she took her medicine, even giving B12 shots, along with the many other duties of transportation to doctor appointments and taking care of the basic needs of bathing, grooming and preparing meals.
And there are thousands of others today who work tirelessly caring for older parents, spouses, friends or other loved ones so that they can continue living independently, with dignity, at home — where they want to be.
With the vast majority of older Louisiana residents wanting to remain in their homes and communities as they age, the contribution of family caregivers cannot be overlooked. This silent army is the backbone of elder care in our state.
Today, family caregiving is now a common family dynamic. If you’re not a caregiver now, you, like me, were one in the past or likely will become one in the future.
For some family caregivers, their role is more involved as they care for a loved one 24 hours a day, seven days a week, often performing complicated medical tasks like wound care, injections and medication management — once in the domain of only doctors or nurses.
Bottom line: Family caregivers do remarkable things every day to care for their loved ones — and while they would not have it any other way, family caregiving is a big job, and caregivers could use a little help.
Fortunately, AARP Louisiana, the Louisiana Hospital Association and several other organizations have signed on to support legislation that would allow hospitals to share more information with caregivers when people are released to go back home.
I was fortunate to visit the Capitol recently with many other caregivers across the state to show our support for the Louisiana Family Caregiver Act, which was filed by Sen. Yvonne Colomb. Senate Bill 376 is a common-sense solution that will recognize the role of the family caregiver and ease their burden. In the meantime, I also encourage people to learn more about the story-telling initiative “I Heart Caregivers” and visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers. AARP is shining a bright light on these unsung heroes and asking others to share their stories and make their voices heard.
Eileen B. Kennedy
retired program director, Southern University