by Lois Sheaffer, National Director of REST (Respite Education & Support Tools)

What have I learned over the past five years?  I’ve learned that caregiving is bad for your health!

Did you know that 53% of caregivers say their health had gotten worse due to caregiving, and the decline in their health affects their ability to provide care, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

What else have I learned over the past five years? We must be ready to support caregivers who are heroically in the trenches, providing healthcare to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

Our research on the efficacy of REST training shows how friends, family members and neighbors feel more confident in providing respite care for caregivers in their communities after completing the REST training course.

The simple act of stepping up to provide a few hours respite care benefits so many: caregivers get a break…care receivers have new social opportunities…and REST Companions find life satisfaction in making a difference and having a purpose in life.

As we approach our five-year anniversary, we have so many people to thank:  legislators for creating laws to support caregivers, state leaders in the 29 states where REST Trainers and Companions serve, senior organizations for answering the call to support caregivers, and the 15 REST Master Trainers in six states who are committed to training REST Trainers.  But most of all, we want to thank our nation’s caregivers for being the backbone of our healthcare system.

We currently have more than 500 REST Trainers in 29 states, who have trained over 5,000 REST Companions to provide respite care for caregivers. Paid and unpaid respite workers continue to answer the call – their support and commitment are incredibly important.

The future is clear. As a nation, we will be defined by how we treat and support those in need.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us achieve this milestone in just five short years!