NEW YORK, Nov. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- November marks National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the 40 million Americans – nearly 2.6 million in New York state – who help older parents, spouses, and other loved ones live independently at home, where they want to be. The unpaid care they provide – managing medications, cooking meals, driving to appointments, performing complex medical tasks and more – is valued at about $31.3 billion annually in New York state alone.
Editha Batalla Santiago from Hollis, Queens, is one of these unsung heroes. She says, "My mother being a very independent person…wished to be taken care of at home. I fulfilled her wish, and she lived with us until she died."
AARP New York today recognized Editha with a Portrait of Care, an artist's painting of her and her mother, for whom she cared. The presentation took place at MOCA (Museum of Chinese in America) in Lower Manhattan during an event featuring Retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who became an AARP Community Ambassador to advocate for caregivers and their families after serving as a family caregiver himself for his elderly parents.
Randomly selected through AARP's storytelling initiative, I Heart Caregivers (aarp.org/iheartcaregivers), Editha Santiago is one of 53 family caregivers from each state, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands receiving a hand-painted portrait. Thousands have shared their stories on the site.
"We want to celebrate family caregivers, spotlight their experiences of hope, love, dedication and perseverance, and elevate their stories – especially during National Family Caregivers Month," said Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP in New York state, which serves 2.6 million New Yorkers age 50 and older. "This is especially important as we work to support family caregivers through public policy, education, outreach and more."
Editha, age 73 and married with four grown children, cared for her mother, Cesaria, for nearly two decades. Cesaria had early stages of dementia and couldn't walk because of issues with her knees. One of 10 children, as a retired nurse, Editha took on the majority of her mother's care. Cesaria died in August, at 97—four weeks after she fell and sustained a compound femur fracture.
Supporting Family Caregivers
"It's a topic we don't openly discuss, but family caregiving is a national public health issue that affects 44 million households in the country," said Gen. Taguba. "Families must have the difficult, but necessary conversation about the needs of family members and start planning how to cope with day-to-day decisions required to care for loved ones."
David Yanofsky, Supervisor for the New York City Department For The Aging's Alzheimer's & Caregiver Resource Center, also attended today's event.
"Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system, serving a crucial role in helping older New Yorkers and other loved ones remain in their own homes and communities," added AARP New York State Director Finkel. "That's why AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to help make their big responsibilities a little bit easier," like family leave insurance, funding for in-home services for the elderly and "respite care" that allows caregivers to take a hard-earned break¸ and expanding the number of procedures properly trained and certified advanced home health aides can perform such as administering eye and ear drops.
In 2015, AARP fought to:
- Pass the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act to help family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home. The CARE Act was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month and will take effect in April.
- Increase funding for respite care that allows family caregivers to take a hard-earned break.
"Every day, AARP New York goes to work at the state Capitol to make this kind of support a reality," said Finkel, "because supporting family caregivers is a priority for all of us."
As the 2016 state legislative session approaches, AARP is gearing up to work:
- for workplace flexibility so family caregivers don't have to worry about losing their pay – or losing their jobs – when they have to take time off work to bring their older loved one to a doctor's appointment.
- to make sure caregivers have access to the right resources in the community, like home care and adult day care.
AARP has also been fighting for family caregivers on Capitol Hill and thanks Representatives Chris Gibson (NY-19) and John Katko (NY-24) for their leadership and support of family caregivers.
They are cosponsors of the recently introduced, bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act that would require the development of a national strategy to recognize and support family caregivers; AARP has endorsed the RAISE Act.
"Family caregiving is really an issue that impacts us all," Finkel concluded. "It's not a Democratic issue. It's not a Republican issue. It's a family issue."
SOURCE AARP New York