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A1. WHAT FAMILY CAREGIVING WOULD LOOK LIKE IN AN IDEAL WORLD
Across the nation, more and more people are involved in caring for elders and disabled family members. It is estimated that each of these family caregivers spends an average of 697 hours per year providing "free" care, with a total market value of almost $7 million. The United States is home to at least 44.4 million caregivers providing unpaid care valued at over $196 billion, yet their Herculean efforts are rarely recognized. Most often, new caregivers are unprepared for their roles and don"t know how to get the help they need. Lack of support by American society adds to caregiving woes; caregivers in the workplace often fear job discrimination and far too many caregivers are unaware of their options.
As more of us find ourselves caring for elderly parents, it is important that we play a proactive role in helping our parents age gracefully and with dignity. In a perfect world, family caregivers would be confident that they're making informed decisions about their parents' health care and living arrangements. They would be aware of all the existing services and living options, and understand the tradeoffs each involves. In a perfect world, family caregivers would have confidence in their decisions because they would have access to a medical team who takes time to answer their questions and explain treatment options in ways they can understand. Every family caregiver would also have easy access to reliable information about health, housing, and service options.
For family caregivers, each transition comes with new challenges and opportunities for support. For example, when a parent is discharged from a rehab facility, he or she often can't drive, and may need extensive help at home while recuperating. Ideally, families would know that their parents will have everything they need when they go home, including a team of compassionate caregivers who treat them respectfully, whether they're using private pay or subsidized services. For this vision to be realized, families must be connected to a reliable service network that "owns" each problem. If there's a problem with patient care or services at any time, the ideal service provider will find an appropriate solution, relieving family of the burden. These service providers would always show up, be professional, and make communication with patients and their families easy.
In a perfect world, family caregivers would have planned for, and saved enough money to pay for, what their loved one wants and needs. Caregivers would understand what is and what is not covered by insurance, and which options they can afford. They would have had frank discussions with their parents about the financial realities of long-term care before the need for care arises.
And finally, in this ideal world, families could balance the demands of caring for parents with their other responsibilities and activities. Adult children would know and accept their limits before they get overwhelmed, and would be forgiving of themselves when all does not go according to plan. They would understand that it is truly impossible to do it all--particularly when combining caregiving with the demands of parenthood and employment.
Andrea Cohen is CEO and co-founder of HouseWorks, an award-winning, private pay home care agency based in Newton, MA. For the past 20 years Andrea has been a leader in elder care business development and innovative partnerships for home care. She is also Co-founder of the Massachusetts Family Caregiver Coalition.
See caregiver books here: http://www.seniorresource.com/SRBaz.htm#books
A2. ELDERCARE IMPACTS EMPLOYERS' BOTTOM LINE by Neil Johnson
Did you know that eldercare now accounts for more lost work hours than childcare? Why? The vast majority of seniors prefer to live out their retirement years in their own homes. And currently 90 percent of all care provided in the home is done by a family caregiver.
The average length of family caregiving is 4.3 years. And this is while these family members also work fulltime at their own jobs. In fact, one-fifth of today's workers are also elder caregivers. On average, long-distance caregivers, those who live more than an hour away from their loved one, miss 20 hours of work per month. Given that the senior population is expanding as Baby Boomers reach 62, how are businesses going to absorb the impact on their employee forces resulting from this imminent age wave?
First and foremost, wherever possible, employers should consider offering flexible work schedules. This just makes good business sense; such flexibility of hours has been shown to decrease stress and absences, while increasing worker productivity.
Second, it makes sense to do more to support family caregivers by giving them tools such as respite services, training, mentoring/coaching, and advocacy. Just as ongoing training is beneficial for most employees, teaching caregivers how to optimally do the important job of home care makes sense too. Web-based education, for example, could enhance individual competencies and be a portal for sharing best practices.
The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," also applies to eldercare. Some positive community-focused changes in the caretaking process are already happening today. Co-housing communities are forming in several cities in which neighbors share the duties of eldercare and pay a membership fee for home care aides. Member-owned health care cooperatives such as Care Ventures, made up of 17 long-term care organizations, are taking shape. And there are currently 31 neighborhood-based block nurse programs in Minnesota.
Further examples of change: The U.S. Administration on Aging is currently paying for service coordinators at 60 "naturally occurring retirement communities," or NORCs. These are neighborhood blocks or apartment buildings where many people have grown old together. And a few state Medicaid programs are giving the elderly vouchers to purchase home care services.
Technology can certainly play a role in enhancing eldercare as well. Telehealth service management, electronic medical records, and a variety of assistive technologies can all improve service levels. (A nurse using telehealth equipment, for example, can potentially make up to 15 visits a day, rather than the standard five). Sensors can be placed around the home to remotely monitor a senior's activities and movement.
Finally, collaborative partnerships among businesses, faith communities, educational institutions, health care providers and families will be essential. Only together can we ensure that businesses are part of the answer to the ever-growing needs of the eldercare marketplace. In 2004, there were 36.3 million people 65+ in the U.S., or 12 percent of the population. By 2030, this number is expected to increase to at least 20 percent, or about 71.5 million. In a nutshell, we need to enlist that great and amazing trait that never fails --American ingenuity-- to create a senior-caretaking system that will serve us well both today and into the future.
Neil Johnson is Executive Director of Minnesota HomeCare Association, the statewide voice for the home care industry.
Find on housing options at: http://www.seniorresource.com/house.htm
B. DID YOU KNOW...?
1. Women and Retirement Savings
Planning and saving for retirement may seem like goals that are far in the future. Yet saving, especially for retirement, should start early and continue throughout your lifetime. Here are four reasons why saving matters to women--and especially to you!
* Women are more likely to work in part-time jobs that don't qualify for a retirement plan. And working women are more likely than men to interrupt their careers to take care of family members. Therefore, they work fewer years and contribute less toward their retirement, resulting in lower lifetime savings. If you work and if you qualify, join a retirement plan now.
* Of the 62 million wage and salaried women (age 21 to 64) working in the United States, just 45 percent participated in a retirement plan. Remember, even small amounts can earn interest and add up over time.
* On average, a female retiring at age 65 can expect to live another 19 years, 3 years longer than a man retiring at the same age. Savings can increase a woman's chances of having enough money to last during her retirement.
* By and large, women invest more conservatively than men. Choose carefully where you put your money and learn how to make your investments grow.
Find related books on saving money at: http://www.seniorresource.com/SRBaz.htm
2. Enjoying the New Freedom of Retirement
In his new book, Loving Life in Retirement: Making Your New Freedom Work, Marvin H. Berenson, M.D., Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the USC Keck School of Medicine, will guide you on the road to self-discovery, growth and fulfillment--to an exciting and vital retirement. Enriched with specific mental imagery exercises, the book provides methods to eliminate obstacles and negative feelings that can interfere with creating a happy and productive life. In his private practice, Dr. Berenson has successfully treated hundreds of seniors with the same methods and programs that are in this book.
Now is the time to make every moment count. Loving Life in Retirement opens doors to a wealth of ideas that can help you reinvent your life. No matter how much you have accomplished, this is the time to go beyond your expectations. The book includes new approaches to mental and emotional health, creativity, friendship, dieting, exercising, love, romance, and education. Seniors can make this period of life the best years of all. Imagine finding new paths and activities that stir and inspire you.
Imagine achieving a positive level of well-being, happiness, and purpose in life. Loving Life in Retirement can offer you the ideas and techniques to make your new freedom work for you.
To ORDER this practical and inspirational guide GO TO http://www.drmarvinberenson.com
Marvin H. Berenson, M.D,. Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the USC Keck School of Medicine. For more about Dr. Berenson, visit: http://www.drmarvinberenson.com
Additional aging process information may be found at http://www.seniorresource.com/ageproc.htm
C. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
We present here some words from those with a birthday this month.
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D. SPECIAL SURFING SITES
1. Finding Good Nonfiction Books
Shelfari (http://www.shelfari.com) is a social network for people who love books. Readers can create a virtual shelf to show off their books, see what their friends are reading, and discover new books. Over 35,000 of their books are identified as nonfiction.
Get senior-related books at Get Related Books at http://www.seniorresource.com/SRBaz.htm
2. Social Security Sign-up Made Easy
E. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE
Smart Answer # 9
"Oh My Aging Funny Bone" is at: http://www.seniorresource.com/jokes.htm
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SPONSOR AN ISSUE
This issue has been edited by Betsy Day (Betsyjday@aol.com).
Aging in Place