Home Alone Revisited Study Offers Closer Look at Special Issues that 20 million Family Caregivers Face
When AARP’s Public Policy Institute (PPI) conducted its Home Alone study in 2012, the outcome was the first national look at the evolving experience of family caregivers—who are being asked to perform more complex medical/nursing tasks than ever before, who experience a high degree of stress in their role, and who historically have not even been considered part of the health care team. Complex tasks run the gamut from administering many medications, including injections, to changing dressings and handling medical equipment. This is essentially “skilled nursing care”—the skills I chose to learn to do as a nursing student. It is also what I taught family members, neighbors and friends when I was a visiting nurse. This 2012 study was an exploration of how many caregivers are performing these tasks, how they learn to do them and how they are reacting to these responsibilities. We learned much.
From creating a trailblazing initiative that trains bank employees to identify and report suspected financial exploitation, to shining the light on the detrimental health effects and high costs of social isolation, AARP’s Public Policy Institute kept a frenetic pace in 2018, underscoring its identity as a leading “think-and-do” tank. Throughout the year, PPI researched, crunched data and analyzed critical policy issues facing older adults and presented solutions and findings here.
We live in a world of innovation. New technology is changing how we connect with friends, learn, work, play—and even obtain health care. Telehealth, a set of tools both old and new, allows clinicians and home-based patients to communicate with each other via video-conference, email, or just an old-fashioned telephone call. Newer tools enable clinicians to receive clients’ data (e.g., vital signs) and assess their status through remote monitoring devices.
As a family caregiver for my mother who died last year at the age of 96, I benefited greatly from the peace of mind and financial security of having paid family leave benefits from my employer, AARP. The benefit was there when I needed it most: to be present for significant caregiving issues, during a hospitalization, and, finally, in the last days of my mother’s life.
It’s hard to believe a year has passed since the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) released its third Long-Term Services and Supports State Scorecard. The interactive tool measures state performance for creating a high-quality system of care and improving services for older adults and people with physical disabilities, as well as their family caregivers. It encompasses everything from the availability of home and community-based services to access to transportation within a community.
Most people think of family caregivers as women taking care of their aging parents or children. What many don’t know is that 40 percent of the 40 million family caregivers in this country are men. These men range in age from 20-something to 60-something and up. Some step into the role suddenly after a family member or friend is injured or falls ill; for others, the role increases gradually as parents age or someone close is diagnosed with a fatal illness.
When telling the story of my caregiving journey, listeners regularly react in some mix of amazement and pity at my need to juggle the responsibilities of being caregiver to my wife, Kim, and raising my young daughter, Reagan. I often just smile and tell them that I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
En español | When people talk about family caregivers, Millennials are not always part of the conversation. Yet as the report Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 found, close to 1 in 4 family caregivers (24%) are Millennials.
Getting our research off the page and into policy and practice is a critical component of the Public Policy Institute’s work. We know that in order to help older adults, family caregivers of all ages and the professionals who support them, we need to back up our facts and research findings with concrete action steps.
The New Year offers us the opportunity to start anew. We make plans to hit the gym, sleep more, and eat healthier. We commit to spending more time with family and friends rather than merely clicking likes and posting comments on Facebook or sending emojis via text. We resolve to save more and stress less. Many of us even create plans with specific strategies to increase the odds we’ll be successful in reaching our goals.
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