It takes a very special person to be a caregiver. A caregiver must have patience, understanding, strength and the stamina of a tri-athlete. A caregiver’s heart must be willing to be stressed, torn, broken and never allowed to fully heal. Caregivers give willing, countless hours of their time without pay or benefits and usually with little to no praise or thanks. It’s no wonder that many caregivers question why they ever signed up for this job or if their efforts are truly making a difference.
The role and duties of caregiving can fall to any gender, any age and be done by family, friends or even casual acquaintances. However, the truth of the matter is that caregivers rarely are asked to apply for the job they are given. Usually it is something they take on without thinking or because there is simply no one else. Regardless, a caregiver’s efforts, no matter how big or small, are worth their weight in gold.
According to AARP’s publication “Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving” in 2007 it was estimated that 34 million Americans could be classified as family caregivers. Their efforts and unpaid contributions held an estimated economic value of over $375 billion, more than the total amount spent by both the state and federal Medicaid programs and just short of what the Medicare program spent in 2007. Without the efforts of caregivers many of these government programs would be adversely affected.
However, putting money aside, the true value of a caregiver is in the hands-on care and concern that they provide to their loved ones. Many times it is the family caregiver who is ensuring their loved one’s health and well-being. Caregivers coordinate doctor appointments, manage medications and do much to maintain a high quality of life for their loved one. In essence, they help keep them healthy, happy and safe. Without caregivers our society would be much worse off, as would the health and well-being of our community.
Recently, I heard a song on the radio that spoke of the heroism of caregivers and the ways in which their loved ones and those around them express their thanks. It also describes how even the smallest effort does make a difference to so many. The song is titled “She’s Somebody’s Hero” and is written and sung by country singer and songwriter, Jamie O’Neal.
“She’s Somebody’s Hero” begins by describing a mother’s role of caregiving throughout the life of her daughter. It speaks to how her efforts may seem to go unnoticed, except for in the appreciative smile of her child. As the child matures the role of caregiver changes hands and by the end of the song the smile has transferred from daughter to mother with the final lines of the song saying,
“She’s somebody’s hero,
A hero to her mother in a rocking chair,
She runs a brush through her silver hair,
The envy of the nursing home,
She drops by every afternoon,
Feeds her mama with a spoon,
And that smile lets her know,
Her mother’s smile lets her know,
She’s somebody’s hero.”
If you are a caregiver, please know that you are a hero. Not only to your loved one, but to everyone who is witness to your care and compassion. Thank you for all that you do. May the smiles you receive be a gold medal pinned to your heart and lift your soul throughout your caregiving journey.