The History of CAN | Caregiver Action Network

The History of CAN

Since 1993, the Caregiver Action Network (formerly the National Family Caregivers Association) has been working to promote resourcefulness and respect for family caregivers across the country. There is now so much more support for family caregivers than twenty years ago – much of that due to the work of this organization.

In 1991, friends Suzanne Mintz and Cindy Fowler discovered similarities in their issues as caregivers: Suzanne’s for her husband with MS and Cindy’s for her mother with Parkinson’s. Realizing that others must be in the same situation, they made it their mission to provide support to others who may not know how to reach out for help and who did not even know the phrase “family caregiver.”

Together they founded the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) in 1993. "Our original vision was to get information and resources into people's hands and to let them know they weren't alone," according to Fowler.

As Suzanne Mintz recalled: "We wondered why no one seemed to be focused on the fact that helping a loved one with a deteriorating illness had a very real impact on not only the person with the illness, but also on those of us who were primarily responsible for helping them. We were family caregivers, and we wanted someone to reach out to us, to tell us where to find helpful information and advice, emotional support, and real hands-on assistance when we needed it. NFCA was created to educate, support, empower, and speak up for America's family caregivers so that all caregiving families can have a better quality of life."

NFCA focused on raising awareness about the existence of family caregivers as both a specific cohort within the population and, equally importantly, on striving to help family caregivers recognize their role and providing education, support, and a public voice to enable them to speak up and reach out for the help they need.

Some of the major accomplishments during these twenty years include the huge rise in public awareness of family caregiving as measured by the exponential growth in media coverage; the passage of the National Family Caregivers Support Program; the acceptance of the term “family caregiver” by thought leaders; and the realization by government officials and others that family caregiving is a lifespan issue, not one restricted to the aging community.

Ms. Mintz served as NFCA’s President and CEO for nineteen years. In June, 2012, John Schall was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of NFCA – only the second CEO in NFCA’s history. On January 1, 2013, NFCA was renamed the Caregiver Action Network in time for its twentieth anniversary.

Click here for a chronology of CAN's accomplishments.