The John A. Hartford Foundation President Terry Fulmer, at the Rockefeller Center display window. The John A. Hartford Foundation President Terry Fulmer, at the Rockefeller Center display window.

Every day, millions of older adults receive assistance from their very own personal superheroes: the friends and family caregivers who help coordinate medical appointments, prepare meals, give medications, and perform myriad other critical caregiving tasks.

Even without capes and masks, and despite providing $470 billion worth of care annually, these modern day heroes often go unrecognized. Too often, they also go without adequate support and training, which can be dangerous for them as well as the older adults in their care.

This is why The John A. Hartford Foundation, with our mission to improve care of older adults, is celebrating family caregivers through a multimedia window display at Rockefeller Center in New York City throughout the month of March. It is why The John A. Hartford Foundation will continue to support family caregivers of older adults through its current and future grants and programs.

A video featuring Halima Amjad, MD, MPH, and other winners of the Foundation's 2015 Caregiving Story Contest plays on continuous loop as part of the display. A video featuring Halima Amjad, MD, MPH, and other winners of the Foundation's 2015 Family Caregiving Story Contest plays on continuous loop as part of the display.

If you are in New York City this month, please join the hundreds of thousands of visitors to our engaging Rockefeller Center window. The installation was made possible by a generous donation from EHE International, a leader in preventive medicine that donates its high-profile window space to non-profit organizations such as our foundation. The display highlights both the scope of this important issue, as well as the caring superpowers—like empathy, gratitude, and creativity— that caregivers exhibit year-round. We featured the winners of our 2015 Family Caregiving Story Contest as our exemplar Modern Day Heroes, and we invite you to read their powerful stories.

We urge visitors to the window, and each of you, to reach out and thank the caregivers in your lives. Please also point those caregivers to our new Family Caregiving Resources Web page, featured in our window display, that can help identify tools and supportive programs. We encourage you to share this page and feel free to suggest other freely available, non-commercial resources that you have found useful.

The John A. Hartford Foundation has a long tradition of work in the area of family caregiving. A few years ago, we partnered with the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund on the Home Alone study, which showed that almost half of family caregivers are responsible for complex medical tasks like medication management and wound care that are normally provided by trained doctors and nurses.

We have funded additional studies, advocacy, and health care innovations that support these Modern Day Heroes’ health and their ability to care for their aging spouses, parents, siblings, and friends. For example, the Foundation has invested in:

  • Programs to create better transitions of care, to ensure family caregivers of older adults are truly supported and prepared to care for their loved ones when they move between the hospital, skilled nursing facility, and the family home;
  • Efforts to connect the health care system to a better-organized constellation of social services, such as transportation, counseling, and housing options;
  • Organizations that advocate for a well-trained and fairly paid direct care workforce that can deliver often complex and physically strenuous home health services that help older adults and family caregivers;
  • The Dementia Caregiving Network, a multi-sector, interdisciplinary team of leaders under The John A. Hartford Foundation Change AGEnts initiative, working to achieve improvements in services, supports, and care for those with dementia and their family caregivers. A recent New York Times story on one caregiver’s experiences with her parents illustrates with heartbreaking clarity how crucial their work is; and
  • A Study on Family Caregiving for Older Adults by the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM), a division of  the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, that will be released later this year, presenting evidence-based recommendations for public and private sector policies to support family caregivers.

For those readers who track family caregiving issues, please sign up for our alert to be notified when the important IOM study is released this summer, along with information about our follow-up activities to put the study recommendations into practice.

Finally, join us in celebrating family caregivers as Modern Day Heroes! Reach out and thank them and point them to the selection of resources we have compiled. Most importantly, work with us to advocate for additional resources, training, and policy changes that empower family caregivers while improving the quality of care received by the older adults they love.