Message from Rosalynn Carter

More than 53 million Americans provide care for adults and children who cannot care for themselves. Whether helping an aging parent, a seriously ill spouse or child or some other special person in need, those giving care often do so at a great personal sacrifice of time, energy and income. The emotional stress can be tremendous,too. Yet it is not just the family caregiver who is often overwhelmed. Many professional caregivers today face enormous challenges trying to cope with an unwieldy patient load in an increasingly strained health care system.

I know firsthand the demands of caregiving. When I was 12 years old my father became terminally ill with leukemia. I was one of four children and as the oldest and a daughter, my 34-year old mother depended on me. Since returning home from the White House, we have supported many members of Jimmy’s family who have died of cancer, and I helped care for my mother until she died in 2000 at the age of 94. As I’ve traveled this country speaking about caregiving, person after person has stepped forward to tell me their own stories. So many people giving care to their loved ones feel isolated, inadequate, despairing. One man said he would wait until his terminally ill wife was out of the room to break down and cry. A woman caring for her elderly, infirm mother told me she actually ran away for an afternoon, checked into a hotel, but soon returned, feeling desolate that she had even contemplated abandoning her father.

At a time when more and more Americans are called on to give care, it is critically important that we do all we can to support both family and professional caregivers.