Caring for loved ones who are sick or disabled can be thankless; during the pandemic, it can be downright unbearable. In a recent global survey, 62% of caregivers said the person they care for does not appreciate their efforts.
In an attempt to recognize the contributions of unpaid family caregivers, this week, Carewell announced the winners of its first-ever Family Caregiver of the Year Awards.
The awards recognize U.S.-based unpaid family caregivers for exceptional diligence and support in caregiving. The first-place winner was awarded $1,500; second- and third-place winners received $750 and $250, respectively.
“The awards really celebrate the heroic everyday efforts of this population,” said Bianca Padilla, cofounder and CEO of Carewell. “These people do their work hidden away in their homes and they deserve recognition for their unsung efforts.”
Out of 100 nominations, Patti Hopkins, a full-time 911 dispatcher from Colorado, was named the first-place winner. Hopkins cares for both her 85-year-old mother, who has macular degeneration and has suffered a series of falls, and her brother, who is bedridden and blind—and to whom she donated a kidney in 2006.
In describing caregiving experience, Hopkins wrote that answering 911 calls at work gives her perspective on her own situation. “[It] reminds me how lucky I am compared to a lot of other people who are perhaps experiencing the worst day of their lives,” she wrote.
Hopkins attends to every aspect of her loved ones’ needs, from attending to their medical needs to preparing food and running errands. She carefully orchestrates the schedule of appointments for each. Though she rarely gets a break, the pandemic has presented one silver lining: with so many medical appointments now online, Hopkins gets some relief from all the driving she used to do.
“We were moved by Patti’s dedication to her mother and brother,” said Padilla. “[We] saw in her story the experiences and challenges many family caregivers face—including balancing a full-time job and self-care with the demanding responsibilities of caregiving.”
A pre-pandemic study showed that one in five Americans—more than 50 million—serve as unpaid family caregivers. That number could be even higher today. According to the U.S. Carer Well-Being Index, 13% of caregivers surveyed this fall had become caregivers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Caregiving has substantial economic impacts on individuals and society. Unpaid caregivers provide the equivalent of $306 billion in labor, but providing that unpaid labor comes at a direct cost to caregivers.
In a survey Carewell conducted in October 2020, 38% of caregivers reported worrying about finances. More than half of caregivers reported not working outside the home. Of those who work in paid roles, 70% reported missing work because of caregiving.
On top of lost income, caregivers face increased out-of-pocket expenses as part of caregiving. Thirty-six percent reported spending between $1,000 and $5,000 on caregiving-related costs; 16% spent more than $10,000.
These costs can hit especially hard for caregivers in the “sandwich generation,” who may be saving for their own retirement or their children’s education while caring for relatives in need.
“It makes a huge dent and a huge impact in their lives,” said Padilla. “A lot of times the person that they’re caring for just can’t afford it.”
Caregivers, then, face the difficult choice: spending their own money or saying no to products and services their loved one needs.
“We felt that there was a need for a financial reward,” said Padilla. She hopes, over time, to be able to increase the reward and extend it to more caregivers.
The award judges included Padilla and her cofounder Jonathan Magolnick; Abby Levy, managing partner and cofounder of Primetime Partners (one of Carewell’s investors); and Connie Chow, founder of DailyCaring.
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