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Support for the caregiver

  • Published
  • By Capt. Michelle White
  • 375th Medical Operations Squadron
At some point in our lives many of us have considered having children. When the time is right, we prepare for this in many different ways, possibly by talking to our doctor, talking to other parents, reading books or joining websites that provide information on child rearing. We may even take a class on how to adjust to becoming a new parent. Some people even take infant CPR--just to be on the safe side. What most of us don't take time to consider and plan for is being a caregiver for our own parents or another adult.

According to the Illinois Department on Aging, one in four households provide care to an older family member or a friend. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 70 percent of Americans who reach the age of 65 will require some form of long-term care for an average of three years. It is estimated that 85 percent of all long-term care services are provided by unpaid caregivers and that the cost of financial compensation for these services would be $45-94 billion a year.

Unfortunately, the financial, emotional and physical stress of being a caregiver to an adult can be particularly taxing. Being overwhelmed with these responsibilities can sometimes result in abuse or neglect of the elderly person. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, in 2010 almost 10 percent of the elderly population was abused, with over 50 percent of the cases being for neglect. Some signs and symptoms that could be flags for abuse include, but are not limited to, frequent arguments or tension between the caregiver and the elderly person, changes in personality or behavior in the elder, unusual weight loss, untreated physical problem such as bed sores, unsanitary living conditions, being left dirty or unbathed, threatening or belittling behavior, unexplained bruises especially if they appear symmetrical on two sides of the body, broken eyeglasses, and caregiver's refusal to allow you to see the elder alone. If you know of an elderly person with a disability and you suspect that there may be abuse or neglect by their caregiver, you can contact the Illinois Department on Aging at 1-866-800-1409.

It can be difficult for people to know where to go to seek help to prevent elder abuse or neglect from happening. The good news is that there are agencies that provide services to minimize some of the stress and burden placed on caregivers. The Illinois Department on Aging can provide referrals to other community resources that can assist with legal services, landlord-tenant issues, Meals on Wheels, senior dining, transportation, respite care, in-home services to help with bathing, laundry, and meal preparation. There are also agencies that can assist individuals with blind rehabilitation and vocational rehabilitation services. Each agency may have specific age and income requirements for eligibility, so it is best to call and talk with someone personally so they can determine what agencies are available in the local area to best help meet the identified need. To get a list of local agencies, call 1-800-252-8966, followed by option 4. If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one, know that you don't have to do it alone. There is support to help you.