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“80% of Care is Provided By Family Members”

I had the recent opportunity to hear a wonderful speaker at a conference. Her name is Ai Jen Poo and she is the creator of an entire movement committed to caregivers. Listening and participating in her workshop was simply an amazing experience. Those living with chronic illness, one way or another, have been impacted by the role of a caregiver at some time or another, or will be a caregiver.1

“At least a 100 million people who are directly affected by the need for care in America,” Poo2

I loved some the facts that she presented in her workshop

  • People are living longer than ever and most of our elders need care
  • 10,000 people turn 65 each day
  • 70% over 65 need long term care  for an average of 3 years
  • One year in a  nursing home can  cost over $80,0001

My family recently went through the agonizing decision and realization that they could no longer care for my vibrant (read that a feisty and extremely strong willed) grandmother who was still living independently at 99. She is still living but has moved to a retirement home. Like most family situations, the situation is complex and has to do with the family dynamics, abilities, resources and geographic location, of her children, and a few of them needing care of their own. A major factor for our family was the medial care that caregivers were going to need to provide and, their confidence level to do on a continual basis. In a recent survey about a third of caregivers and almost half that provide at least one type of medical care received any formal training.3 I think we need to provide better training and support for caregivers to do be able to do the jobs that they do. They are our frontline support and we need to do better to make sure they  have what they need. Not

How might we create systems that better assist families to take care of loved ones?

I would want my caregiver to know they are valued, to receive any necessary training for the care they need to provide the care we need. As a system, I am not 100% sure where we start, however I think the idea of valuing the importance and care in a start. Many caregivers may have been trained in a clinic to provide care or look out for symptoms. In the case of family caregivers, they are often unpaid and provided care simply out of love.3 We need to celebrate and support this. The other will be creating a support system for training and ways that look at minimizing the financial burden of those need that caregiving or provide the services of being a caregiver.1, 3 This is a systemic problem and will need a collaborative approach of policy makers, patients and caregivers to be at the table. I don’t have all these answers. However, I hope together as a community we can shape some answers to this. I encourage you to have conversations with your family and loved one about what you want from your caregivers, how you can support them or what resources you may need to be connected to.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.