AARP to Caregivers: We Hear You

Members | September 20, 2012

A new ad campaign by AARP and the Ad Council aims to raise national awareness about the impact of family caregiving. It also urges caregivers not to neglect their own needs.

“For those dealing with the daily struggles of caring for a loved one, we hear you.”

That’s the theme of a new series of public service announcements (PSA) that AARP and the nonprofit Ad Council have been broadcasting to television sets around the nation since mid-September. The campaign consists of ads for television, radio, print and online use that aim to: 

  • Raise awareness about the impact of family caregiving.
  • Point overwhelmed families to caregiving resources. 
  • Urge caregivers not to neglect their own needs.

Caregiving Campaign: Offering Empathy and Resources

One PSA offers a dramatic symbol for the campaign: the “silent scream” that caregivers may secretly feel like voicing but keep to themselves.

In this PSA, 3 caregivers stop in the middle of their daily caregiving tasks – driving Dad, conferring with Mom’s health professionals and deciphering insurance paperwork – to throw back their heads and let out what looks like a piercing scream. The pain and frustration show clearly on the caregivers’ faces. No sound comes out of their mouths.

The PSA then directs viewers to the AARP Caregiving Resource Center. That online community features web chats with caregiving experts, online support groups, legal documents and links to such programs as Eldercare Locator and the National Respite Center and Resource Center

Caregivers can also call a hotline at 877-333-5885. 

The Impact of Family Caregivers

Valuing the Invaluable: The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving, a 2009 AARP report (updated in 2011), describes the average U.S. caregiver as a 49-year-old woman who has held down a job while providing nearly 20 hours a week of unpaid care to her mother for nearly 5 years. 

The report estimates about 42.1 million family caregivers in the United States provide care to an adult with limitations in daily activities. The estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $450 billion in 2009.

The report provides a laundry list of roles that family caregivers play, including:

  • Providing companionship and emotional support. 
  • Helping with household tasks. 
  • Handling bills and dealing with insurance claims.
  • Carrying out personal care, such as bathing and dressing. 
  • Being responsible for nursing procedures in the home.
  • Administering and managing multiple medications, including injections. 
  • Identifying, arranging and coordinating services and supports.
  • Hiring and supervising direct care workers.
  • Arranging for or providing transportation to medical appointments and community services.
  • Communicating with health professionals.
  • Serving as advocates for their loved one during medical appointments or hospitalizations.
  • Implementing care plans.
  • Serving as a care coordinator during transitions from hospital to home.

"At first you're just helping out Mom,” AARP Vice President Debra Whitman told the Associated Press recently. “Then it can become more than a fulltime job ... Most caregivers don't know where to turn for help.”