Caring for Our Caregivers
Caregivers provide support for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Howard Brown Health celebrates caregivers and encourages you to support the caregivers in your life and community. Whether it be providing direct services to children, people living with chronic conditions, or older adults, caregivers fill many of the gaps that exist in the U.S. healthcare system—often with little to no recognition or financial compensation. When we discuss how essential workers have supported us during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to include caregivers in this conversation.
In the United States alone, there are an estimated 50 million people who are providing care to someone who is aging or living with a chronic condition. Many of those doing this work are single handedly managing all aspects of someone’s care, from their finances and transportation, to medication management, often without any formal training. Caregiving can be a 24/7 job that requires consistent attention, labor, and compassion.
Caregiving is a beautiful act that bonds people and communities together, but it is not without its hardships. Due to a lack of resources and social networks, caretakers often have to deprioritize their own careers, personal lives, and health in order to serve others. Studies have found that caregivers consistently report higher rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms than their non-caregiving peers and that long-term caregiving causes increased risk in heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic health issues.
These physical and mental health risks associated with caregiving disproportionately affect women, especially low-income women, women of color, and queer women. Historically these groups of women have assumed these roles as it was the best way to support their families and greater communities, often when the state refused to help. In Chicago specifically, lesbians played an essential role in the AIDS organization ACT UP. When reflecting on his time in ACT UP 30 years later, activist and Senior Director of Chicago’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Roberto Sanabria said, “Chicago ACT UP had more lesbians and tended to be a little more mature. The women in Chicago were powerful. When people started to pass, it was the women who would stay with them. I remember when Ortez was dying [in 1990], there was nothing but lesbians surrounding him. They were an anchor; they held it together.”
Caregiving is deeply connected to the LGBTQ+ community’s survival and future. Howard Brown holds two workshops to help your care partner manage their chronic disease. For more information about our workshops and other caregiver support programs, please send an email to AgingServices@howardbrown.org or call 773.388.8894.
- Take Charge of Your Health is a six-week workshop that educates and empowers participants through a variety of fun, engaging activities. Each session covers important self-management tools like physical activity, stress management, social support systems and nutrition. Each participant creates a personalized action plan focusing on their goals and interests. All interested individuals are invited to attend, whether you have a chronic illness or care for someone with a chronic illness.
- Take Charge of Your Diabetes covers much of the same discussion as Take Charge of Your Health and was designed specifically for individuals living with diabetes and their care partners.
Community support services available in the Chicagoland region include caregiver education, respite services, in-home care assistance, and more.
- AARP Caregiver webpage
- Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group locator
- City of Chicago Caregiving Support
- Illinois Family Caregiver Support Program
AARP report on Caregiving in the US https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/full-report-caregiving-in-the-united-states.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.001.pdf