Caregiving is an extraordinary act of love that is becoming more commonly adopted by Americans who opt to help loved ones hands-on. Family and friends may evolve into unpaid caregivers who instinctually step up to provide whatever support is needed to assist aging adults; disabled loved ones; or people who are recovering from long term illness.
In 2015-2017, through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a brief collected information from community-dwelling adults who are 45 years of age and up. The CDC cited recent data from it while describing caregiving as an important public health issue.
“22.3% of adults reported providing care or assistance to a friend or family member in the past 30 days,” according to the CDC.
Additionally, details in the brief revealed that in addition to caring for “children, parents or spouses,” America’s middle-aged and older adults are providing a large portion of another person’s social or health needs.
“One in three caregivers (31.3%), provided 20 or more hours per week of care and over half (53.8%) have given care or assistance for 24 months or more,” per the brief.
Marion “Murnie” C. Wenn is among Americans who has been providing this sort of devoted care to her 92-year-old mother, Marion Wenn. Murnie retired from Maryland State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services as a captain.
“I help her get dressed and bathed. I fix her meals,” the Annapolitan said, referring to the eldest Marion.
Murnie also transports her mother to medical appointments. She is accustomed to lending a hand however and whenever it is needed. Murnie explained that the nonagenarian remained in rather good health until she was recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer. After undergoing surgery a few weeks ago, Murnie’s mother is currently recovering. Providing care came naturally for Murnie to step up when support was needed. Although her parent had been very independent, the mother and daughter already lived together.
“We just grew into each other. We grew into me helping her when she needed it. It wasn’t an issue or transition that was required at all,” Murnie said, noting that a caregiving routine developed.
COVID-19 caused Murnie to use extra caution when visitors came to their home to provide support. Family has stopped by, but in most recent times, Murnie provides care for her mother, although her granddaughter helps. She lives in the household.
Murnie is an inclusive caregiver who acknowledges that hobbies are enjoyable for both of them. The elder Wenn enjoys taking car rides. And when it comes to attending events, Murnie takes her mother out whenever she can, although crowds are avoided. Murnie enjoys engaging in various crafts. Walking three to five miles a day was a personal hobby that she would like to resume when caregiving duties allow her to do so.
Murnie feels that the most rewarding part of caregiving is being able to do it, since some people cannot do it for their loved ones, while others simply are unwilling.
“I’m just happy that I’m able to take care of her,” Murnie said while reflecting on providing care for her mother.
Helping others is not foreign to the Wenn family. Murnie’s mother is a retired nurse. Additionally, before retiring in 2013, Murnie was caregiver for her father, George Wenn, until he passed away. Taking off work for months was required. A cousin who is now deceased came over daily to help with her father who was in hospice care. The late relative was a nurse.
Murnie also mentioned that she aided her granddaughter. She was born with a rare health condition.
“Basically, I’ve been just doing a lot of care for individuals,” Murnie said.
She offered insight about how to support other caregivers who are accustomed to providing routine care. They may appreciate someone showing up just to sit for them a few minutes or staying put while the caregiver runs an errand. Waiting for a caregiver to let someone know if they need something may be ineffective.
“They really don’t want anything other than support,” she said.
In 2020 AARP reported updates presented by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. A highlight of the survey revealed that almost 48 million caregivers in America care for an individual over 18 years old.
Murnie wants to leave a legacy for her family. Her words offer a teachable moment for anyone.
“Make sure that you’re taking care of each other regardless of what’s going on in your life, because people have their own little issues with everything. Put them aside and take care of each other,” she said.