Guest Column | November is National Caregiver Month

November has been declared National Caregiver month by the President of the United States.

The Western Arizona Council of Governments (WACOG) Area Agency on Aging is paying special tribute to all of the caregivers in our service area of Yuma, La Paz and Mohave counties. In 2019 at least 53 million people were providing informal and usually unpaid care and support to aging family members.

There are 257,000 Arizonans caring for a friend or family member.

Arizona has the highest number of hours per unpaid caregiver – approximately 501,000,000 hours of unpaid care per year at an estimated value of nearly $9,6 million. About 25% of U.S. adults ages 18 and older reported providing care or assistance to a person with a long-term illness or disability in the past 30 days.

By 2030, for the first time ever, there will be more people age 65 and older than there are children.

Caregivers need to have training, support and opportunities for rest and self-care or their health, well-being and quality of life suffer. Supporting Caregivers has been an urgent public health issue and the COVID-19 pandemic made it worse with the long-standing shortage of direct care workers.

On Sept. 21 the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers was delivered to Congress.

The strategy includes nearly 350 actions the federal government will take to support family caregivers in the coming year.

WACOG supports these strategies and provides multiple services and assistance to caregivers in their care-giving journey, providing respite and home-delivered meals.

Additional caregiver supports and services include a new on-line program called Trualta (WACOG.trualta.com.) This program allows the caregiver to create a custom learning journey, choosing from topics that interest them at any time of the day or night. Caregivers can access articles, videos, tip-sheets and professional level training. There is something for everyone.

The WACOG Virtual Caregiver Support Group is led by Elaine Sanchez and various topics are discussed, including fear, guilt, frustration and more.

The group meets online every other Wednesday at 10 a.m. Arizona time. If you are interested, sign up for the group at Caregiverhelp.com/WACOG.

In honor of Family Caregiver Month and on behalf of WACOG and the communities we serve, we would like to acknowledge caregivers and let them know that they are not alone.

Their time, effort and care of their loved ones and friends is of value and worthy of the highest recognition.

Most of us will either be a caregiver or need one, and many will experience both. Supporting caregivers is an issue that will touch every one of us in some way or at some point in our life.

(Connie Fulkerson is WACOG’s caregiver coordinator. Contact her at 928-377-4963 for more information.)

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