Dr. Cheryl Woodson

I’m A Caregiver. Hear Me Roar! — The Caregiver’s National Anthem

headerWomensHistoryMonth2014Women’s History Month is an appropriate time to remember that caregiving is a women’s issue. The average family caregiver is a working woman, under age sixty who puts in several caregiving hours at the end of her day. Not only is she unpaid, every year, she spends up to $5000.00 of her own money to give care, even though as a woman, she has fewer financial resources than most men. She is likely to live in a household with dependent children (like 40% of her caregiving comrades,) and also care for parents, grandparents, in-laws, and other older adults. This puts her, and the rest of the 21st Century “Sandwich Generation,” into a triple-decker club! Workers in nursing homes, and community eldercare programs are also mostly women. They do amazingly difficult work for near-minimum wage, and without benefits.

In 1972 Helen Reddy co-wrote and recorded the song “I AM WOMAN,” which became the national anthem for the women’s movement. If we put new lyrics to Helen Reddy’s tune, we can change it into the Caregiver’s National Anthem.

I’m a caregiver, hear me roar
Though public policy ignores
That the value of my work
Dwarfs government spending.
Sandwiched in a 3-tier club
From Grandma down to Scouts of Cub,
And I’m struggling just to get to work on time.

CHORUS
Oh yes, I am tired,
But I still feel very guilty.
Don’t they realize
This is NOT how it should be?
Because I have to,
I’m doing everything.
I am strong,
But not invincible.

I’m a caregiver.
I pay for food and medicine
Though men make more in the job I’m in,
And my workday bleeds into a “second shift.”
Now, Mom can’t stay alone,
And I quit so I’ll be at home,
But my pension’s not enough to care for me.

CHORUS
Oh yes, I am tired,
But I still feel very guilty.
Don’t they realize
This is NOT how it should be?
Because I have to,
I’m doing everything.
I am strong,
But not invincible
I’m a caregiver.

Vote for tax credits for me,
And economic parity,
And respite care so I have time to see my doctor,
Protect my health, and hope, and funds.
I know a group’s stronger than one.
We will work to make the nation understand.

CHORUS
Oh yes, we are tired,
But no longer feeling guilty.
We will organize and say how it should be.
Yes! We have to, and we can do anything.

We are strong.
We are invincible.
We are caregivers!
Yes, we are caregivers (strong)
We are invincible.

You are not alone. Many Americans struggle with caregiving responsibilities, and their numbers grow every day. You deserve their support, and you have wisdom to share. Hands-on caregivers are also the best advocates for creating realistic public policy. You know what you need, but nothing will change if you don’t get involved. Amplify your voice! Work with the Caregiver Action Network, AARP, The Alzheimer’s Association, and other organizations that care about caregivers. You are invincible!

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