Every day, a remarkable group of Vermonters performs a great labor of love: caring for aging parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and friends so they can remain in their homes. They are on duty 24/7, and often cannot take a break. Yet they wouldn't have it any other way. These caregivers are truly unsung heroes.

To honor family caregivers, AARP launched a new initiative to focus attention on their stories called "I Heart Caregivers." Every caregiver has a story and gathering these stories strengthens the caregiver community for everyone's benefit. If you know someone with a story to share, encourage them to go www.aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.

In addition to offering caregivers the opportunity to share stories with each other, the initiative also provides us with a powerful way to bring those voices to lawmakers and policymakers in Montpelier. Together with other organizations, AARP Vermont is gearing up to work for common-sense solutions in the next legislative session to support family caregivers and their loved ones. For example, we need to develop improved transitional care plans for patients returning home from the hospital, secure better workplace flexibility for caregivers, and ensure we are investing in the programs and services that caregivers and their loved ones need in their own communities.

We know that there is a silent army of some 120,000 Vermonters who are caregivers each year. Let's recognize these remarkable individuals who are working to help seniors live independently and who make it possible for them to stay in their homes where we know they want to be.

Greg Marchildon is the director for AARP Vermont.

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