Really, No Research Necessary


Really, No Research Necessary

money.svgEarlier this morning, I wrote about one of my pet peeves.

I guess it's a pet peeve kind of day because I've got another one.

I read the following in an article this morning (AARP Arizona Makes Caregiver Support a Priority for 2014):
AARP Arizona officials said Monday they are working to build a bipartisan coalition at the state Legislature to create a committee to study family caregiving and long-term support options and services.

“Our AARP priorities this year will address issues important to our members and non-members alike,” said Virginia Brant, volunteer chair of AARP Arizona’s Advocacy Network. “Building awareness with legislators to study how to better support family caregivers is among our top priorities.”

This would seem like good news, right?

Here's my beef: No need to study how to support family caregivers. We've got all the research we need. It's time for action, to create programs and services which make a day easier for family caregivers.

Since 1995, I have been conducting an annual survey of family caregivers. Each year, I ask family caregivers which services they would like to see more of in their communities. This year, the top answers to the question, "What services would you like to see more of?" were:

  • Respite care so they can get a break (42% of respondents)

  • Financial aid for family caregivers (42% of respondents)

  • Support groups (34% of respondents)

  • Caregiving conferences (29% of respondents)

  • Adult day services (29% of respondents)

The answers remain constant year to year; each year, family caregivers ask for the same services in their community. (As a side note: In 2013, only 44% of respondents said they were happy with services in their community, the first time since I've started the survey that the satisfaction number has fallen below 50%.)

Because programs in other states already exist to help family caregivers, Arizona simply needs to take a page from New Jersey, for instance, and its Statewide Respite Care Program, which launched in 1988. Yes, New Jersey launched a program to help family caregivers 26 years ago. (I managed the program for a New Jersey county in 1990.) The program "provides respite care services for elderly and functionally impaired persons age 18 and older to relieve their unpaid caregivers of stress arising from the responsibility of providing daily care. A secondary goal of the program is to provide the support necessary to help families avoid making nursing home placement of their relatives."

Services available under the Statewide Respite Care Program include:

  • Companions

  • Homemaker/home health aides (on an hourly or overnight basis)

  • Medical or social adult day care

  • Temporary care in licensed medical facilities

  • Camperships

  • Private duty nursing service

  • Caregiver-Directed option

Or, how about working to add funding so that local libraries act as a hub for family caregivers, where they learn about local program and attend support groups? Or, how about cross-training postal carriers to make wellness visits?

We needed research 20 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago. Now, we need innovation and action. And, we need to use funding dollars and budgets wisely. Putting money into researching what we already know is just wasteful. The money needs to go directly to help family caregivers, not to market researchers.

We need people in power to simply start and then build. Ask the Arizona state legislators to start a support group in their communities at the venues of their choice--their houses of worship, libraries, even their offices. After attending a few support groups, the legislators will have all the information they need to take the next step toward bringing respite care programs, caregiving conferences, adult day services and financial aid to their constituents.

Simply put, the best resource for a family caregiver is another family caregiver. Connect them and you've got a valuable solution.

The time for research has passed. Family caregivers need us to just do it.

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AARP doesn't seem to be terribly interested in anything but getting folks' money to spend on political issues. I wish they were better advocates!


Here. Here.


That is a great idea, G-J! I'll keep you posted. :)