By Kathy Elpers, EdD, MSW, LCSW

Associate Professor of Social Work

College of Liberal Arts

University of Southern Indiana

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As our population ages, family caregivers play a necessary and important role providing for the care, support, and well-being of older adults. Families’ involvement in the care of aging parents is vital, as society cannot replace or be the sole entity responsible for their care.

Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former president Jimmy Carter, has stated, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” Everyone, at some point, will either need care or know of someone who will need care at some point in their lives.

It is a well-known fact that we live in an aging society. According to the 2010 Census, 13 percent of the population in the United States was 65 and older. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of individuals age 65 and older will double from 43.1 million in 2012 to 92 million in 2060, which means that one out of every five persons will be 65 or older.

Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, a report published by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, states that 19 percent of all American adults are providing unpaid care to elders age 50 and older. The estimated economic value of these caregivers’ unpaid contributions was approximately $450 billion in 2009, up from an estimated $375 billion in 2007 (AARP Public Policy Institute).

Anyone who has or is currently a caregiver understands the blessings and challenges of caring for an aging parent, relative, or an older person. Caregivers want to provide care, but also struggle with how to balance caregiving duties with other responsibilities, such as work and their own families. In addition, it is not easy for the elder person to become dependent on others for care, as well. As a result, sometimes conflict occurs, which can make caregivers feel unappreciated and adds to the stress of caregiving.

We need to develop a culture of care for our elders and support for caregivers. It is common for caregivers to feel isolated and unaware of the resources available in the community, such as SWIRCA & More, home health care agencies, mental health services, educational programs, financial assistance programs, and support groups.

There are so  many issues that impact both caregivers and the elder recipients that this article cannot begin to cover all of them. More information can be found on Internet websites such as Family Caregiving Alliance (www.caregiver.org/). In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org/) and the U.S. Department of Health &  Human Services (www.alzheimers.gov/) provide resources for families caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

Locally, SWIRCA & More’s website has a wealth of information related to caregiving, and also has information on how to apply for services through the National Family Caregiver Support Program: http://www.swirca.org/SocialServices/CaseManagement/Programs/FamilyCaregiver.aspx .

For more information, call SWIRCA & More’s Aging and Disability Resource Center at 812-464-7817.

 Kathy Elpers is a member of the advisory council for the Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness and the planning committee for the Mid-America Institute on Aging, co-sponsored by the University of Southern Indiana and SWIRCA & More. More information is at http://health.usi.edu/chaw/default.asp

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