Caregivers need and deserve support: resources are available to help families, employers

Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter once said, “There are only four kinds of people in this world: Those who have been caregivers, those who are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” Her remarks underscore why caregiver support is everyone’s concern. Caregiving is one of the toughest jobs many of us will ever do, and it’s a role that will impact virtually all of us.

The need for family caregiving is projected to escalate significantly in the coming decades. Key factors driving this trend include an aging demographic, increased longevity and an overburdened health care system.

The proportion of older adults living with the advanced stages of serious illness is also growing rapidly. About 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition such as cancer, heart disease, dementia or COPD. More than 50 percent are living with at least two chronic conditions. In Northern Ohio, the percentage of the frail elderly exceeds the national average, so the need for family caregiver support is even more acute.

Dealing with the burden

Caring for these individuals places an enormous burden on lay caregivers, most of whom do not have any formal health care training. Research shows caregivers often overlook their own needs for medical wellness until a crisis arises because they cannot find a replacement caregiver or pay for the help.

What does this mean for our region’s employers?

A national AARP study indicates six in 10 of those caring for an older adult are employed, working an average of 34.8 hours a week.

In the same study, six in 10 caregivers report a significant impact on their work. Most commonly cited are tardiness, leaving early and taking time off (49 percent).

The National Alliance for Caregiving reports that U.S. companies lose between $17.1 billion and $33.6 billion annually due to reduced productivity. That equals $2,110 for every full-time worker who cares for an adult.

At Hospice of the Western Reserve, an integral part of our care model includes supporting caregivers and families as well as the individuals coping with chronic and advanced illness. Our caregiver support includes 24/7 phone access, around–the-clock medication deliveries, respite care to provide a break from family caregiving and volunteers to help with errands, provide companionship and even “sit vigil” during the final hours.

Presentations offered

Perhaps less widely known are the educational caregiver resources we offer to the local business community which can be customized for all levels within an organization.

Presentations are tailored to each company’s needs and range from consultations with human resources and the C-suite to “lunch and learn” programs for employees.

A sampling of the programs available through our Speaker’s Bureau include “Being a Caregiver: Steadfast or Stressed,” “Eldercare Resources Roundtable,” “Sorting out the Myths and Facts about Hospice and Palliative Care” and “Wellness through the Senses and the Power of Meditation.” ●

More information on business resources and programs is available at [email protected] or by calling (216) 502-4440.

William E. Finn is CEO of Hospice of the Western Reserve, which provides palliative end-of-life care, caregiver support, and bereavement services throughout Northern Ohio. William has served as CEO since February 2011 and has been in the field of hospice and palliative care for 28 years.