Everyday, everywhere you turn, scores of Americans are putting in work caring for our elders and fellow citizens with disabilities, and today, across the nation, caregivers are being celebrated for the amazing difference they make.

It wasn’t until I started taking care of my grandma that I truly began to appreciate how much we family caregivers and professional caregivers have in common. 

Whether you get paid or not, caregiving is one of the toughest jobs you will ever have.

It isn’t a glamorous job, either.

We receive bad news in hospital waiting rooms. We butt heads with medical professionals and sometimes get mean on the phone. We clean up accidents. We change appliances, keep IVs going, push fluids, vent stomas, and, yes, we wipe butts, too. 

Beyond the nitty gritty, family and professional caregivers share the same challenges as they strive to make sure our society’s vulnerable have the best quality of life possible.

Thanks to the poor training we get as caregivers, we often begin our journey ill-equipped. It doesn’t matter whether our family ties initiated caregiving or we filled out an application, most of the time pushed out on the front lines with less-than-basic training. 

Thanks to the lack of recognition of the economic value we contribute, we struggle to make ends meet. We find ourselves strapped financially, often forced to make major sacrifices. Sometimes, we hold down two or three jobs to keep our heads above water. Sometimes, caregiving shoves us out of the workforce altogether. 

Thanks to the lack of supports for caregivers, we have to wear all the hats. Over time, we pick up the roles of personal chefs, nutritionists, physical therapists, patient advocates, and companions until we are spinning all of the plates. We end up burning the candles at both ends with little time for ourselves, many times at the risk of our own health. 

Let’s face it. The current state of caregiving can make it feel like a pretty thankless job. 

Something’s gotta give. Here’s why: One inalienable fact about caregivers is there is simply not enough of us to go around. The demand for our care grows by the second. (Eight seconds, that is. A baby boomer turns 65 every 8 seconds.)

I can only hope that our society and culture truly starts to appreciate and acknowledge the value of our care, not just today, but everyday. 

It’s time to honor the vital contribution caregivers make day in and day out and begin searching for real solutions to ensure everyone who cares receives the recognition and support they deserve. 

In the meantime, dear sing and dance partners, keepers of knowledge, menders of broken hearts, holders of hands, and driers of tears, I salute you. And if no one else tells you how much they appreciate you, let me tell you now:

Thank you for all you do!

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