November is National Family Caregiver Month


When you have a spinal cord injury, caregivers are often a part of daily life. Whether it is a dedicated family member or paid professionals in a facility or the home, caregivers help us manage our complicated SCI care.

Caregiving is Difficult, Underpaid Work.

The care of a person living with paralysis can be complicated, time consuming, physically strenuous and mentally exhausting at times. Caregiver agencies often don’t pay wages that compensate adequately for such work so personal care attendants in the home can be difficult to find and keep whether you’re reimbursed by Medicaid or not. Facilities are understaffed and a last resort for most families. Care giving is just not a job enough hard working people are willing to take on.

That’s why two out of every five adults in the U.S. are family caregivers.

Millions of Family Caregivers are Unpaid Altogether

Today in America, more than 53 million family caregivers provide unpaid care. That’s often because health insurance policies don’t provide the service and limited income prohibits us from hiring help. Understandably family caregivers disproportionately come from lower-income households. Sometimes family caregivers are forced to leave good jobs in order to instead provide care, too.

Women, people of color and immigrants are most at risk of having to take on the task of unpaid family caregiving.

These family members sacrifice their time and energy to provide health and dignity to their disabled children, aging parents, and disabled family members.

In some states family members can get paid for the care of their family member through government programs if their income and assets are low enough. However, spouses typically will not be paid for caring for one another and parents are rarely paid for caring for children with disabilities. Teen caregivers are unpaid, but they do exist: more than one million between the ages of 8 and 18. Thousands of aging caregivers still take care of disabled family members and report being in poor health themselves.

Family Caregivers Deserve Recognition

In honoring their service it is of vital importance to note that these caregivers who opt not to institutionalize family are a service to this country as well as their loved ones, and it is grievously unfair that they are so often unseen, undervalued and unpaid.

Thousands of families with disabled loved ones struggle to maintain normal family dynamics, with many  family caregivers juggling the care of children, elderly parents, and a disabled family member. Without support, this lifestyle can be challenging and even poor quality at times.

Appreciating Family Caregivers

Although our families care for us because they care about us, the difficult work and lack of supports can really strain family relationships. Recognizing your family member’s sacrifice is important, and expressing frequent gratitude can help your caregiver feel the appreciation you feel for them.

Try to give your family caregivers respite if possible. Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but it is also physically and emotionally demanding. The stress can lead to a higher risk of health issues. Your family caregivers need time and energy to take care of themselves, too.

This November, show your family caregiver how much you appreciate them.