The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that almost 16 million unpaid caregivers – family members and friends– provide more than 18 billion hours of care per year for their loved ones, with a valued estimated at $220 billion.

If your parents are at a stage where they can no longer do things for themselves, you are probably part of this group. You are aware of the challenges faced by caregivers, the stress they experience and the impact it has on their emotional well-being. The problem is exacerbated by the high cost of medical care. Procedures, doctors visits, prescriptions and copays are so high that many people cannot afford paid help.

A recent TED talk highlights the incredible role informal caregivers have in the healthcare system. Without their contributions, the “care” would largely be taken out of “healthcare” and our modern health delivery system would fall apart.

Caregiving should be a choice and should be done without putting someone’s own well-being at risk. Sadly, this is not the reality. Data from the Alzheimer’s Association shows that being an informal caregiver aggravates the caregiver’s own health concerns and that more than half of all caregivers say that the emotional stress of caregiving is high or very high. In addition, caring for a loved one has a negative impact on job, income and financial well-being. Data suggests that almost 20 percent of caregivers give up full time employment and take part time work, and that another 20 percent will quit work entirely in order to make time for their caregiving role.

Informal care is the bedrock of healthcare. Hug a caregiver and appreciate their contributions to our communities and healthcare system.

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.
They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist. In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.
Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.
Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones. He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio. He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.