We Hold Solutions, Not the Government


We Hold Solutions, Not the Government

changeLast week, I led a video chat to discuss solutions for our caregiving crisis. Consider:

--According to The National Alliance for Caregiving, in the U.S., 65.7 million caregivers–29% of the U.S. adult population–provide care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. We’re also a population living with chronic illnesses; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 133 million Americans–almost 1 out of every 2 adults–had at least one chronic illness in 2005. And, as a population, we’re getting heavier: 31% of adults are obese and 15% of children and teenagers age 6-19 are overweight. Obesity can lead to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

--As we age and as we live with chronic illness, we rely on help from our family members. These family caregivers will soon care for more than one family member. According to Cali Yost, and her recent blog post, The ElderCare Cliff. It’s Coming Are You Ready?, in 2050, or 38 years from now, there will only be 2.9 people ages 16-64 years old to provide unpaid care for every person 65 and over AND to work to pay taxes to support public programs for the aging.

Bottom line: More and more of us will be caring for family members (and friends) and, most likely, more than one family member at that. How will we get the help we need so that we can continue to manage other responsibilities, like our career, parenting and our own care?

Often times, during these discussions, the suggestions turn to government-funded programs. I've lost count how many times I've heard: The government needs to create programs to help family caregivers.

A few years ago, I really began to think we've got to look for solutions other than those funded by the government. The recent impact of the sequester (automatic budget cuts) has completely convinced me that our solutions must come from our own initiatives.

Just this morning, I read a Huffington Post article about the impact of the sequester on our Meals on Wheels programs:

The White House has said the cuts would mean 4 million fewer meals for seniors this year, while the Meals On Wheels Association of America put the loss at 19 million meals. ~ Arthur Delaney, Meals on Wheels Sequestation Cuts Taking Effect

When federal, state and local government dollars support a program, the program becomes about chasing federal, state and local dollars to stay afloat. When you have to constantly run after government funding, your organization changes focuses--from its mission to its survival. It's difficult to help those you're committed to helping when you're worrying about surviving.

I'm on the board of a non-profit organization based in Chicago. Last week, I attended the organization's board meeting during which the Executive Director presented its budget for its fiscal year beginning July 1. The proposed budget operates off of a significant deficit, mainly because the organization's funding source--state funds--has dried up. The organization has not created revenue streams to replace the loss of state dollars and now faces a shaky future. In order to continue, the organization will have to draw from its reserves (its savings). Without a new source of revenue, the organization will go out of business within a few years.

If we move away from believing the government has solutions and turn to each other, we'll see we actually have the solutions. We can organize and advocate and solve because we actually already do. If we begin to help with the idea that we create the momentum that keeps the help going, then we stay loyal to the purpose. Our loyalty isn't based on whether or we not we receive funding to keep going but on the belief that we keep going because our purpose is that meaningful to ourselves and to those we help.

On the Internet, we are a very small (kinda tiny, actually) community at Caregiving.com. And, yet, we help each other in very meaningful ways. Consider our CareGifters program, which operates off your donations. Two years ago, we sent Kristin, our very first recipient, $500 so she could buy food and shoes.

Teresa, who received $500 in October, said during Table Talk on Saturday that receiving money was really about receiving hope. She also spoke about the ease of receiving help through CareGifters--the application and the approval process are simple. It's the anti-thesis of getting help through the government.

Some day, I suppose, we may have have more requests in the program than we can manage. Or maybe not. Two summers ago, I received an application from a family caregiver whose financial situation hovered on the brink of catastrophe because she couldn't sell her mom's home. I wrote her to let her know she had been approved for our program. She immediately wrote back to let me know she had a buyer for the house and could make it--she didn't need our help any longer. Sure, greed could become part of the program. I believe graciousness will always overshadow it. (We're currently raising money to help Casandra. Read her story and donate here. Thank you so much for your generosity.)

We can continue to make a difference and create the solutions that help family caregivers. It could be a coop created in communities, where family caregivers provide respite for each other. It could be a Community Caregiving Squad, through which former family caregivers help today's family caregivers.

It's a new world--a world in which individuals organize solutions. They don't wait for a government program to be created. They just do. Just like us.


--Read more of my commentaries here.

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Hi Wendy--Such a good point! Care will happen in our community, in our homes. And, the demand for help will happen before our government(s) can offer the help that's needed. More reasons for us to be the solution.