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What is… a Caregiver?

By Ralphine Major
“Do you help an older family member pay bills or do household chores such as meal preparation, laundry, or cleaning?  Do you assist with medication, provide transportation, shop, or run errands for a loved one?  What about dressing, toileting, bathing, or feeding?  Do you have to help arrange and coordinate outside services?”  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then–According to the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability–you are probably a caregiver   (www.state.tn.us/comaging/caregiving.html).
Kim Underwood, a registered nurse with years of experience, currently serves as the parish nurse at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church.  Kim shares staggering 2010 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the following paragraphs.  “More than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability [American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 2008].  Unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 90% of the long-term care [Institute on Medicine (IOM), 2008].  The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman with some college experience and provides more than 20 hours of care each week to her mother [National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), 2004].”
I was intrigued that faith was recognized in the CDC’s data.  “About 73% of surveyed caregivers said praying helps them cope with caregiving stress, 61% said that they talk with or seek advice from friends or relatives, and 44% read about caregiving in books or other materials (NAC, 2004).   About 30% said they need help keeping the person they care for safe (NAC, 2004).”
Readers of this column may find themselves among these alarming statistics if they have not already.  “Caregivers report having difficulty finding time for one’s self (35%), managing emotional and physical stress (29%), and balancing work and family responsibilities (29%) (NAC, 2004).  Half (53%) of caregivers who said their health had gotten worse due to caregiving also said the decline in their health has affected their ability to provide care (NAC, 2006).  Caregivers said they do not go to the doctor because they put their family’s needs first (67% said that is a major reason), or they put the care recipient’s needs over their own (57%).  More than half (51%) said they do not have time to take care of themselves and almost half (49%) said they are too tired to do so (NAC, 2004).”  (www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/facts.htm).
Wallace Memorial has invited more than thirty organizations to participate in a “Caring for the Caregivers” resource fair.  The agencies will demonstrate their services and products as well as answer questions from attendees.  “With a population of parents that are living longer and stretching out their quality years as well as years with not so much quality, our spouses and children (Boomers) are having to step into the “caregiver” role like no time before,” Wallace Memorial’s Associate Pastor to Senior Adults, Rev. Kent Williams, said.  “We hope to let the community know that we realize this at Wallace,  and we want to be a part of improving the quality of life for the aging parent; but, also, we want to improve the quality of the caregiving spouse and/or the caregiving children.  There are resources out there that let everyone know they do not need to go at this alone.”
On Saturday, May 4, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., Wallace Memorial will host the caregivers fair for senior adults and caregivers of all ages.  The speakers, both of whom are well known in the Knoxville area, are scheduled concurrently at 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 noon so attendees may hear each of them.  Bob Coyne was the primary caregiver for his wife during her eight-year illness.  Since her death, he has dedicated himself to empowering and encouraging caregivers through his seminars.  Blake McCoy is CEO of Independent Insurance Consultants.  He regularly provides community education sessions on Unraveling the Medicare Mystery, Health, Long-Term Care, Life and Retirement.
The event is free and open to the community.  “What Wallace is presenting is probably just the tip of the iceberg as far as resources go.  Our desire is to help people get connected to available resources,” Rev. Williams added.  Wallace Memorial is located at 701 Merchant Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee.  For more information call 865-688-4343 or visit www.wmbc.net.  Whether you are caring for a spouse, a special needs child, a sibling, or aging parents, this resource fair is for you!

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