Last Monday I didn’t eat my usual noon meal here at Gramercy Hill. Even though I crave a Big Mac once in a while or some great fish at one of my favorite fast food places, I enjoyed a special meal at the Governor’s Mansion.

As a caregiver for Merle, I was invited to attend the special day as National Family Caregivers Month was being recognized in Nebraska as well as nationwide.

It has been a long while since I’ve attended anything in that lovely home. During the time Ben Nelson occupied the mansion, Merle and I enjoyed several picnic meals when news media personnel were entertained.

Many, many years ago I recall the good old Syracuse Laff a Lot Extension Club toured the mansion when it was quite new. I don’t remember having any trouble with the stairs back then but I do believe I’ll take the elevator if I visit again.

Here at Gramercy we have two forks for our main meal. One is for our salad and one for our main course. Seems like a waste to me. One will do. Could that attitude possibly stem from the fact I didn’t have a dishwasher?

At any rate, there were so many forks, I almost needed a meal map to make sure I used the right one at the right time.

Joking aside, the company at our table and the speakers were inspirational. I learned a lot in a short time. The day and the time was well spent

I really hadn’t given a lot of thought to the term “caregiver.” It is just a natural thing family members do when one of their own needs help.

What I didn’t know was how the statistics on the ages of caregivers has changed in the last few years.

Children from age eight to 18 are helping in large numbers. They are assisting their veteran parents who have come home wounded from tours of duty. They are also assisting parents or grandparents who have age-related health problems and/or Alzheimer’s.

Many caregivers have full-time jobs and must have the loved one needing help in their home due to the high cost of professional health care. Many are busy raising their own families while assuming the care of extended family.

I found I am in an elite group of caregivers. Only 7 percent are 74 or older. At 84, I guess I fit into that “older” group.

The group seated at our table proved to be as diverse as any you might hope to find. Seated at my left was a charming young man. I say “young man” because he was younger than my own sons. His wife is his caregiver. He has early onset Alzheimer’s.

He was quite articulate and is hoping to be able to relate the changes he is seeing in himself to help science find a cure for this terrible disease.

Across the table was a “respite volunteer.” He is a retired teacher from Omaha and spends time with homebound persons so their caregiver can attend to errands or their own health appointments. He is also training other persons to provide that much needed commodity of respite. The theme for Caregiver’s Month is “Respite: Care for Caregivers.”

Another tablemate was a woman about the age of my daughter. She is helping with her own 90-year-old parents. She just moved them from their farm in Kansas to an apartment here in Lincoln. Memory loss is their main problem.

As our population ages, caregivers will be needed in much larger numbers. One of the speakers stated that in just a few decades people will live well into the age of 130!

I came back to Gramercy filled with new information and glad that son Ken had come for the day to be a respite caregiver for me, even if the day did come with too many forks.