Not all superheroes wear capes, stop speeding trains or use their x-ray vision to foil the bad guys. Family members who sacrifice time, dreams, money, and even their own health to care for loved ones are the unsung caregivers of the world -- and it’s time to give them some praise.
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Family caregivers typically do their work anonymously without reward or recognition from outsiders. But that’s changed somewhat since Homewatch CareGivers began giving several local and one national award annually to acknowledge these family caregivers and make more resources available to them. For this year, Homewatch Caregivers has partnered with the National Family Caregiver’s Association to increase awareness and resources for family caregivers with the National Family Caregiver of the Year Award. It is estimated that one-third of the American adult population is providing care for a family member.
Caregivers are nominated for these awards—which offer cash, education and a day of respite care for themselves—by a third party. The national winner is selected from the pool of local winners and awarded $10,000.
Kathleen Albin of New Jersey was one of the 2010 local winners and exemplifies a typical family caregiver. Nominated by the owner of her mother’s assisted living facility, Ms. Albin has her own family to care for, and still finds a few hours each day to help her 87-year old mother with everything from laundry to transportation.
“Kathy knows that every day is a gift being with her mother,” wrote Madeline D. Murray, owner of Spring Lake Arbors. “She cherishes every moment, because she knows tomorrow could be her last.”
From the many applications and finalists for the National Family Caregiver of the Year Award, there are dozens of Kathleen Albin, or similar stories of ordinary people overcoming their own obstacles to help their family members through illness. A single mother with multiple sclerosis provides care for her young autistic son, a neighbor takes in an elderly blind friend to live with her own family that includes young children, a man who lost his daughter to a car accident and his job to the crumbling economy and also found himself caring for his three children and his wife after her unsuccessful brain surgery, and a Wisconsin woman who found out her 22-year old daughter needed a liver transplant shortly after having both of her parents move in with her since they had each suffered strokes.
Just these few examples illustrate the financial and emotional support family caregivers like these need. Homewatch CareGivers provides a full-year scholarship to their own online university where caregivers can take classes about specific chronic illnesses and a day of exceptional respite care for the caregiver. Local winners qualify for the grand prize.
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