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Support Key in Balancing Caregiving, Career

Award recipient says it's important not to do it alone

Balancing family life with a demanding job is difficult for any working mom, but for Sami Peterson, 51, of Fort Collins, Colo., it’s particularly challenging.

Peterson takes care of her husband, Rob, 66, who has Huntington's disease, and her son, Will, 17, who is developmentally disabled — all while working as a project manager for Larimer County.

See also: Balancing work and caregiving.

Her success at juggling those roles has just earned her the Caregiver of the Year Award from the National Family Caregivers Association and Homewatch CareGivers, a national service and education organization.

"The fact that she can [be a caregiver] while holding down a career is inspiring and the main reason our judges voted for Sami," Leann Reynolds, president of Homewatch CareGivers, said in a statement.

Peterson was nominated for the honor by her stepdaughter and other family members. The award includes a $10,000 prize, as well as respite care and online training.

Peterson says a weekly Huntington’s support group, her church, relatives and friends help her remain positive and focus on her family. “The most important thing is to not [be a caregiver] alone," she says. "You really have to do it in a community."

According to AARP, an estimated 25.5 million Americans are in similar situations every day as they struggle to balance work and the responsibilities of caring for a relative.

Overall, more than 65 million Americans provide home care to loved ones, according to the 2009 Caregiving in the U.S. report by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP. The report found that caregivers help loved ones for an average of more than 20 hours a week.

A 2011 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute estimated that family caregivers provide the equivalent of $450 billion worth of care to their adult parents and other loved ones, an amount that makes caregivers one of the largest and most overlooked pillars of the U.S. health care system

Also of interest: Respite care: A break for the caregiver.>>

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