Take Time To Care For Caregiver

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Prior generations often shared wonderful memories of active and healthy grandparents -- typically because seniors didn't live far past their prime years. In the last century, with life expectancy having increased by an average of 30 years, the "golden ages" are much more encumbered by health care concerns, which may make older loved ones unable to live alone or care for themselves.

In the recently published Evercare Study of Hispanic Caregiving in the U.S. conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare, part of UnitedHealthcare, there are currently an estimated eight million people providing care for an older loved one. That equates to one in every three Hispanic households, and the numbers will increase dramatically as our senior population and Hispanic population grow in the next 20 years.

According to the study, almost all Latino caregivers keep their loved ones company or provide emotional support. The first ever look at Hispanic caregiving in the U.S. shows one in four Hispanic caregivers feel it would be very difficult to find someone to take on their responsibilities if they needed a break. They average 37 caregiving hours per week and as a result, 41 percent have left or changed their jobs. But, they are not complaining -- among Latinos, there is a great sense of family unity.

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"Taking care of them is like giving back our love," said one Latino caregiver. "They were the first to give us love and attention, so we have a moral obligation to respond. So it's a way to give back that love that was given to us."

Most agreed that taking care of a loved one brings them a sense of fulfillment. Religious faith, in turn, provides the vast majority with the strength to continue in their role. There are strong expectations that Hispanic family members will care for the elderly, rather than pass on the burden to outsiders.

Additionally, many feel strongly that the companionship helps keep the sick or elderly in better health. "My main responsibility is to keep her company," said another family caregiver. "I've been the one she talks to the most. That's what makes her feel good."

While there are many services to assist caregivers who are pinched for personal time and finances, most don't know where to look. Some say, "there's no time for me to have fun ... you begin to feel depressed ... we don't know where to go for services."

"We need to focus on how to help the Hispanic community access information, services and opportunities such as caregiver training so that they can better respond to the needs of their loved one," said Dr. Ana Fuentevilla, Medical Director for Evercare. "Our study showed that diabetes, which accounts for twice the mortality rate among Latinos as the general population, is the number one reason that Hispanics become caregivers. Our goal is to ensure that education about chronic illnesses like diabetes or dementia and the preventive care for both the heath of the loved one and the caregiver is communicated." For example, Evercare Solutions for Caregivers is an innovative program designed to ease the burden of caregiving so that working caregivers can remain productive at work and the elderly can live independently at home. More than 500,000 working caregivers have access to this program provided through more than 500 employers nationwide. Evercare, which has been providing health care plans for Older Americans for more than 20 years, was created to help the elderly maintain their independence and best possible health.

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