Remembering our caregivers

53 million caring for loved ones

Bill Dodds, a retired Catholic newspaper editor and columnist, once wrote about what he called the “Beatitudes for Caregivers.” Dodds and his wife, Monica, had offered a ministry to caregivers, Friends of St. John the Caregiver, before Monica’s passing in 2013.

As we mark National Family Caregiver Month in November, it’s a splendid opportunity to share some facts about family caregivers and to share some of Bill’s “Beatitudes for Caregivers.”

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), more than one in five Americans serve as a family caregiver. “This totals an estimated 53 million adults in the United States, up from the estimated 43.5 million caregivers in 2015,” NAC stated in a “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” report.

So who are the caregivers and family members in need of care?

Of the 53 million caregivers, 89% care for a relative; 40% live with the person they care for full-time; and 24% care for two or more adults.

An estimated 14.1 million unpaid caregivers provide care to a child with special needs under the age of 18 in the United States, according to the NAC. The remaining 47.9 million are adults ages 18-49 (6.1 million) and adults ages 50 and over (41.8 million).

About 27% of the 53 million adult American caregivers assist someone with a mental illness, while 26% provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Unpaid caregiving by family members will continue to grow as the population ages and lives longer, according to the NAC. “Caregivers feel the push and pull of providing care on their time, their financial well-being, their health, their family, their work and their own personal well-being.”

If you are one of the 53 million Americans caring for a loved one, who sacrifices so much for the love of another, know that the Father in heaven, “who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt 6:6).

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading focused on the beatitudes spoken by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. Here is an adaptation of those beatitudes offered to caregivers by Bill Dodds:

“Blessed are those who sleep poorly because they’re worried about their loved one or because their loved one wakes in the middle of the night and needs help, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn because their loved one, though still alive, is slipping away because of dementia, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek who force themselves to speak up and speak out to make sure their loved one receives the help he or she needs, for they will inherit the land.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for answers to why this is happening to their loved one and how much longer it will go on, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are those who show mercy, kindness and compassion to their loved one, for they will be shown mercy, kindness and compassion.

“Blessed are those who keep clean a loved one who is physically or mentally unable to keep himself or herself clean, for they will see God.

“Blessed are those who help their loved one find moments of peace, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are misunderstood, not appreciated and taken for granted in their role as caregiver, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. …

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”