Charlene Thurston, RN, ANP, Director of Hospice

The following is an interesting report on caregiving, reprinted for our readers with permission of the Hospice News Network (vol.10, no. 10, 3/7/06)

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company has launched The Caregiver Initiative, a national campaign “designed to call attention to the vital role that family caregivers now play, to help them maintain their own health and well-being while they care for others, and to prepare all Americans to better recognize and accept the responsibilities of caregiving that may well affect them personally as our society ages.”  More than 20% of the US population will be 65 or older by 2030 and will be cared for by family caregivers who will provide more services for free than the federal government will in all other settings combined.

The campaign stems from a national survey that found Americans “unprepared to care” for others.  The survey also found that “this lack of preparedness could have serious social implications as our baby boomer generation continues to age.”  Other results include:

    * Twenty-two percent of Americans are now caring, unpaid, for a relative or friend.

    *  Forty-four percent of those caregivers are men.

    *  The majority of these caregivers are over age 45.

    *  This caregiving may go on for decades, with 63% of caregivers now providing care for more than a year, 37% for up to four years and 26% for more than four years.

    *  Fifty-eight percent of caregivers say they are not well prepared to handle insurance matters.

    *  Fifty-six percent of caregivers think they are not prepared to help with medications.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Americans are not prepared to be cared for either.

    *  Only 40% have living wills or healthcare powers of attorney.

    *  Thirty-five percent have purchased disability insurance or investigated assisted living situations.

    *  Only 27% have long-term care insurance.

    *  Slightly more than one-third have talked to a relative or friend about caring for them in the future.

US Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Dr. Richard H. Carmona, has issued a “prescription” for the family caregivers, aimed at managing the stress they experience.  The Caregiver Initiative will work with Carmona, the Administration on Aging and national aging and caregiving organizations to educate people who are actually doing the caring. 

(See the sidebar to the right for Dr. Carmona’s advisory for caregivers >>)

Several excellent websites, which offer both educational information about caregiving and support for caregivers, include: www.strengthforcaring.com; www.caringinfo.org; www.caregiver.org.

For Our Nantucket Caregivers:

Hospice Care of Nantucket has developed a wide range of educational and supportive services through our Caregivers’ Connections Program, which are available not only to caregivers of terminally ill patients, but to caregivers of persons with any chronic illness or disability. Through this program, we offer private educational/counseling sessions with professional staff, available in any setting – home, office, hospital, nursing home, etc; qualified volunteers for practical assistance, companionship, support, errands, transportation, brief respite breaks; groups, facilitated by professionals, for education, support, and socialization with other caregivers. Please visit our own website at www.hospiceofnantucket.org.

“Time Out” a new program, which we added this year, is focused on teaching specific stress reduction strategies for caregivers. (see “Time Out” below)

Our Alzheimer’s Disease Educational Consultations, which we added last year, are now available through our own professional staff.

As always, all of these services are offered free of charge. Our goal is to empower caregivers and to help them care for themselves, as well as those they love.

Prescription for Caregivers:

It is Important to Care for Yourself

Being a caregiver for someone you love is one of the greatest gift you can give, but it can also be very stressful. As you care for your loved one, there re are resources that can help and things you can do to ease the strain on your own health and well-being. Here are some ways to care for yourself while caring for your loved one:

Talk to your doctor if you feel depressed or anxious. Signs that you may need help include crying more re, sleeping more re or less than usual, changes in appetite, and lack of interest in your re regular activities.

Find out about sources of support and help in your community. Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors, your place of worship, your Area Agency on Aging or your workplace for help with caregiver tasks.

Realize that your health matters – it benefits everyone if you stay healthy and less stressed. Visit your doctor every year for a check up and be sure re to get a flu shot.

Be aware of the toll stress takes on your health. Try to find time for exercise, eating well and sleeping enough.

Learn about the condition your loved one is facing and how it may affect his/her physical and emotional state.

Funded by the Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket Foundation, the Palliative & Supportive Care Program is operated as a department of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which is an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital, and a member of Partners HealthCare. Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket is a specialized health care program dedicated to providing excellent physical, psychological, social, and spiritual care to persons with life-threatening illness and their families.

A Partnership in Caring

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