Three Cheers for Family Caregivers!

Article Highlights:
  • About 65 million people provide ongoing care for a family member or friend, and of those, 44.4 million are unpaid.
  • The MDA community provides an extensive national network of support and resources for family caregivers, including the MDA clinic team, myMuscleTeam, myMDA and the local MDA office.
  • MDA will offer special online features at mda.org to commemorate National Family Caregivers Month in November.
by Annie Kennedy on October 1, 2010 - 3:25pm

QUEST Vol. 17, No. 4

“There are four kinds of people: those who are caregivers, those who have been caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”  ~ Rosalynn Carter

While the month of November is recognized as National Family Caregivers Month, a salute to caregivers is warranted all 12 months of each year.

Annie Kennedy

If you are a family caregiver (a person providing care for a family member or close friend), you are not alone. According to a survey conducted in 2009 by the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 29 percent of the U.S. population — 65 million people — provide ongoing care for a family member or friend. Of those, 44.4 million are unpaid for their care and approximately 60 percent work outside the home while providing care. Spouses who provide care 36 or more hours weekly are six times more likely than non-caregivers to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety — and the impact of caregiving on the physical health of a caregiver is equally alarming.

There’s no denying that caring for a loved one is both an honor and an art. Many family caregivers do not even think of themselves as “caregivers.” But odds are that every person reading this article knows several people who fall within the “family caregiver” category — and one of them may be you. If there is someone in your life who is caring for someone else — please reach out. If you are the caregiver, please know that you are not alone.

The MDA community is an extraordinary national network of support. However, most people think of the MDA community only in the context of the people affected by neuromuscular diseases. In fact, our community includes not just these individuals, but their families, friends and loved ones as well.

The following resources are available to family caregivers within the MDA community:

MDA clinic: Members of the MDA clinic team are well-qualified to answer questions about support resources and referrals to qualified counselors. You also may want to check in with the social worker affiliated with your MDA clinic to see whether there are any benefits or resources that you have not yet accessed.

myMuscleTeam: MDA’s myMuscleTeam is a free and simple way for families to receive strength from a personally created community — their “Muscle Team” of family and friends. Users can create private, secure myMuscleTeam Web pages, which offer two primary services: the ability to easily keep friends and loved ones updated about medical matters and other aspects of your life; and the power to comfortably recruit and schedule volunteers to give you the specific help you need.

myMDA communities: An online community for individuals affected by neuromuscular diseases, myMDA is also meant for family members, friends and medical professionals. It’s a place where you can offer and find support; exchange helpful tips and resources; and meet others in the MDA community.

Your local MDA team: Your local MDA office team can connect you to other local families, area support networks and helpful resources.

MDA salutes caregivers

Be sure to visit MDA’s website during November to see the special features planned for National Family Caregivers Month.

E-postcards: Send a free e-postcard to caregivers as a way to acknowledge and thank them for their work.

Meet a caregiver: MDA will highlight two to three caregivers per week during November, in text and video.

Salute page: Post a caregiver salute via a typed message, video or photo.

Tips for caregivers: This section will include resources for caregivers, including archived Quest articles, and information about staying healthy and finding helpful resources.   

Public webinars: MDA will present two expert-hosted public webinar sessions for and about caregivers during November.   

In addition to these special online features, local MDA offices around the country will host special caregiver-focused support groups and educational seminars in November, complete with a new “Caregiver Salute Video” produced by MDA.

There is great strength in our community for all our members — especially caregivers.

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