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More than 1,200 missing in the California wildfires. Also on the Monday rundown: A pair of reports on gun violence in the nation; and concerns that proposed changes to 'Green Card' rules favor the wealthy.

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AARP Honors Minnesota Caregiver, Continues Push for Reforms

This portrait of caregiver Jill Ballard of Cannon Falls and her husband Bob was given to Jill as part of National Family Caregivers Month. Courtesy: AARP Minnesota
This portrait of caregiver Jill Ballard of Cannon Falls and her husband Bob was given to Jill as part of National Family Caregivers Month. Courtesy: AARP Minnesota
November 25, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – With November being National Family Caregivers Month, AARP Minnesota is recognizing one of the state's nearly 600,000 people who are caring for loved ones so they can live as independently as possible at home.

Jill Ballard of Cannon Falls was chosen to be honored after she spent five years caring for her husband Bob, who died in October. Ballard says Bob was living with several health problems, including diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

"I ended up giving him showers, shaving him, helping him dress," Ballard recalled. "I had to give him his insulin, drive him to the doctors, do all the yard work, the bills. But my grandmother taught me a very wonderful lesson: do not borrow tomorrow's troubles, just live for the day."

Ballard was awarded a painted portrait of herself and her husband in honor of the care she provided. AARP estimates more than 40 million Americans are the primary caregivers for older family members.

Erin Parrish, AARP Minnesota's associate state director of advocacy and outreach, says caregivers like Ballard provide unpaid care worth almost $8 billion for their loved ones. According to Parrish, her group is continuing to work with Minnesota lawmakers to push for reforms, including new family leave rules.

"A paid family leave insurance program provides workplace flexibility, so family caregivers don't have to worry about losing their pay or losing their job when they have to take time off of work, to be at home to provide the necessary care," Parrish explained.

AARP Minnesota is also supporting the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act. If approved, the law would provide family members with training to help with basic medical care, including injections, when a loved one is released from the hospital.

AARP has collected caregivers' stories from across the country. For more on Jill Ballard's story and others, visit iheartcaregivers.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN