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Wisconsin Caregivers: "Silent Army of Unsung Heroes"

PHOTO: It is National Family Caregivers Month, to salute the tens of millions of Americans who are caring for a family member. AARP has launched a new initiative, I Heart Caregivers, to honor and help those who care for family members.  (Photo credit: seniorcarestress.com)
PHOTO: It is National Family Caregivers Month, to salute the tens of millions of Americans who are caring for a family member. AARP has launched a new initiative, I Heart Caregivers, to honor and help those who care for family members. (Photo credit: seniorcarestress.com)
November 17, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - It's National Family Caregivers Month, and AARP-Wisconsin has launched a new initiative called "I Heart Caregivers" to recognize the contribution and dedication of family caregivers in Wisconsin.

It's been said, if you're not a caregiver now, you were one in the past or you'll likely be one in the future. According to Sam Wilson, state director of AARP-Wisconsin, the new website at AARP.org/IHeartCaregivers has resources to help caregivers work through some of their more difficult tasks.

"I Heart Caregivers is one way for us to again shine a spotlight on those stories and let people know what they're going through is the same thing hundreds of thousands of other Wisconsinites are going through, and tens of millions of Americans all across the country," Wilson says.

At the site, people can share their care-giving story, read about experiences others have had, and get specific tips to help caregivers cope with the stresses associated with caring for a loved one.

Wilson says a large number of residents of the Badger State are involved in family care giving.

"At any one point during the course of a year, nearly three-quarters of a million Wisconsinites will be providing care to someone," says Wilson. "The total economic value of that family care giving time, which is unpaid, is nearly $6 billion."

If family members are being cared for at home, it means they are not in a costly institution such as a nursing home or hospital, where the cost is often paid for by the state through Medicaid.

The average caregiver is a 49-year-old female taking care of a 77-year-old woman; most commonly a daughter caring for her mother. But Wilson says there are plenty of other caregivers, such as the so-called "sandwich generation."

"Those in their 40s and 50s still raising children and also now providing care to their adult parents," he says. "So the great benefit of people taking care of their loved ones, keeping them at home as long as they can, but the dual stresses then of taking care of two generations of individuals."

Wilson calls the family caregivers who help aging relatives stay in their homes, where they want to be, "a silent army of unsung heroes."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI