Money can’t buy the kind of care that family caregivers devote to their loved ones, from driving to appointments to managing medical claims to providing hands-on assistance. But if it could, a study by AARP notes that unpaid caregiving was valued at $600 billion in 2021. “Family caregivers are a scarce resource and should be protected and supported,” says Susan Reinhard of AARP. “If they walked off the job, we’d be $600 billion short.”
Who are these unsung heroes? How can we help them?
These are the questions that Caregiver Advocates like Kristen McFadden ask themselves. Kristen started working at Sound Generations in the Pathways Information & Assistance program and now works as a Caregiver Advocate in the Sound Generations’ Caregiver Support program. While singing the praises of both programs, Kristen especially loves being a Caregiver Advocate because it is less crisis-oriented; not only can she relax a bit more when talking to people, but she can help caregivers take a moment just to breathe and think.
Kristen feels grateful every time a busy caregiver takes the time to talk. She always asks about the challenges they are facing and how the Sound Generations team might be able to help. Kristen sees Sound Generations’ wraparound services as life changing. And that’s not program rhetoric; it was shared by at least one recent caregiver she worked with, who was connected to a helpful workshop, legal support, and respite services that provided her a few hours break from caregiving.
Despite the life-changing impact of wraparound services, Kristen notes that “just listening is the main thing,” which the other caregivers warmly agree with. Kristen also emphasizes her awe of her “impressive and inspiring” team members. Together, they work to remind caregivers that they matter and that we must take care of ourselves in order to care for others.
The Caregiving team currently has a backlog of 30-40 caregivers waiting to talk to advocates and/or receive counseling. These folks are willing to wait because the caregiver team doesn’t just provide referrals but will push to find ways to connect them to more services and do whatever they can to improve their caregiving journey.