New report out that 30% of adults in the U.S. are caregivers. That's a staggering number of people who, in addition to everything else they are doing, provide care to needy members of their family. Granted, in times past when multiple generations lived together, this was commonplace. In fact, if we went back 100 years, I'm sure that the number of families caring for elders or infirmed members was close to 90%. This is the "modern" age however, where there are nursing homes, assisted living and multi-level living situations - and where family members live far from one another. The amount of time, money, energy and love spent to perform this caregiving is phenomenal -and it is largely unknown. Who trains these caregivers, who supports them, who provides needed respite, etc? The answer is nobody - not the government, not friends or neighbors, sometimes other family members, but it is usually an island unto itself.
It has been described that there is an impending crisis of physically and mentally challenged persons who are being cared for by aging parents/siblings. When these caregivers die, who will care for the persons in question? Where are the facilities that could provide the love and comfort that a person's family provided? In the nursing home community a new endeavor known as the "Greenhouse Project" has created home-like environs for elders. Maybe a similar program could be inaugurated to care for others in need who are not elderly. We still need to train a lot of people to give appropriate levels and quality of care, but this might be an approach that could work.
For my money, faith communities are a place to begin to provide the caring presence. Here you can leverage a group of people who are predisposed to love each other and to love others mmore than themselves. They are hungry for missional outreach and would love to care for their own. Elders and others who have been members of faith communities would be comfortable with people they know providing care. Hospitals, nursing homes, social service and public health agencies could provide necessary training and oversight. The time is now to see what is coming and create a more caring environment for all.
This week, take a look around your circle of friends and see who is providing care to family members. reach out and ask what it is you might do to support them. It will help you every bit as much as it helps them.
Peace for the journey,