More than 44 million people in the United States care for a family member, a friend or a neighbor, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. November has been designated as National Family Caregivers Month in the U.S. to recognize unpaid caregivers who help others out of love or friendship.
Many of those caregivers are supporting someone with a rare disease. Michael Johnson, Sr. is one of them. His wife, Cheryl Blackwell-Johnson, is living with hereditary angioedema (HAE), a condition that can cause painful swelling in different parts of the body. Michael calls himself Cheryl’s “backbone,” a title he’s earned over decades of full-day doctor visits, frequent trips to the emergency room and pickups from work during HAE attacks.
“As long as she needs that support, I’m always going to be there for her,” Michael said.
Caregivers like Michael have been recognized in the U.S. each November since 1997, when former President Bill Clinton proclaimed the first National Family Caregivers Month.