Seventy Percent


Seventy Percent

sun-75967_640CBS Sunday Morning featured a story this morning called "Aging in America: Stuck in the middle." (You watch the report here.)

An excerpt from the story follows:

Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle says the problem of long-term care is becoming a national crisis, as more of us are living longer with limited resources. "I can't tell you the number of people that have told me they've given up everything -- they've sold cars, they've sold property, they've sold furniture, they've sold things that they otherwise would have kept, just to pay for their parents' care," he said.

Daschle and a bi-partisan group of former public officials have created a task force to try to draw attention to the issue. "Care is highly-fragmented, and as a result available services and support are not coordinated," he said.

(Reporter Rita) Braver asked, "Is there an estimate of how many people aged, say, 65 and older will at some point in their lives need long-term care?"

Daschle replied, "The amazing statistic -- and it is still one that's hard for me to get my arms around -- is that 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will need care of some kind, whether in their home or in institutions before the end of their life."

As we know here, caregiving happens at any point in our lives--it often doesn't wait until a family members passes 65 years of age. We care for children with special needs, spouses with cancer and siblings with a life-long diagnosis.

I think it's awesome when a program like CBS Sunday Morning takes a closer look at the experience of caregiving and its impact. It's even better when the look expands to include all affected by a caregiving experience.

When we think only of caregiving as an experience about caring for parents, we inadvertently overlook support that anyone--at any point in their life--may need.

Consider my interactions on Tuesday of last week. I am a part of a speakers bureau used by Employee Assistance Programs and Work/Life benefit companies. Sometimes, I give seminars and presentations. And, sometimes I man a table for the EAP or Work/Life company during an employer's benefits fair.

On Tuesday, I manned a table for an EAP used by a large corporation with offices in a Chicago suburb. Throughout the day, I interacted with both employees and other vendors at the fair. My day began by meeting an employee who spoke about caring for her father-in-law until his death. That conversation led to a discussion about her current caregiving situation: She now cares for her husband, who was diagnosed with dementia in his mid 50s.

When a HR manager from the company stopped by to chat, I shared that many employees are interested in caregiving information. She agreed that many employees care for their parents. I was able to share that they also care for other family members, like a spouse. She had never considered that her employees could be caring for anyone other than a parent. Sharing information that employees also care for spouses and other family members completely changed her assumptions about caregiving.

My day ended with a conversation with the vendor who sat next to me. She spoke about caring for her parents and her in-laws. She also shared the story of her daughter, born with cancer 14 years earlier. Her daughter is now healthy with help from medications.

Caregiving does not discriminate. At any point in our lives, a family member or friend may need help. When we open up the discussion that's exclusive of an age, we ensure future programs and policies include all family caregivers, regardless of their caree's age.

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