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AARP Recognizes Family Caregivers across the US

Portrait of Care presented to Karen Hollar of Anchorage


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ANCHORAGE, AK – November marks National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the 40 million Americans – more than 128,000 in Alaska – who help older parents, spouses, and other loved ones live independently at home, where they want to be. The unpaid care they provide – managing medications, cooking meals, driving to appointments, performing complex medical tasks and more – is valued at about $1.1 billion in Alaska alone. 

Karen Hollar from Anchorage is one of these unsung heroes. She says, “As she continues to decline, my mother holds on to her caring personality though. Although it has been difficult at times, I am so glad we have had this time together.”

AARP Alaska is recognizing Karen with a Portrait of Care, an artist’s painting of her and her mother Beverly. Randomly selected through AARP’s storytelling initiative, I Heart Caregivers (aarp.org/iheartcaregivers), Karen is one of 53 family caregivers from every state, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands receiving a hand-painted portrait. Thousands have shared their stories on the site.

“We want to celebrate family caregivers, spotlight their experiences of hope, love, dedication and perseverance, and elevate their stories – especially during National Family Caregivers Month,” said Terry Snyder, AARP Alaska State President, which serves more than 86,000 of Alaskans age 50 and older. “This is especially important as we work to support family caregivers through public policy, education, outreach and more.”

At age 48, Karen is married, has two grown children and works full time as a medical social worker. She also cares for her mother, Beverly, who has Alzheimer’s disease and lives in an assisted living facility nearby.

Supporting Family Caregivers

Family caregivers play a crucial role in helping older Alaskans and other loved ones remain in their own homes and communities,” Snyder continued. “Family caregivers are the backbone of our nation’s care system and that’s why AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to help make their responsibilities a bit easier, like Alaska Senate Bill 72, which will help family caregivers who care for an older parents or loved one so they can live independently in their own home.”

As the 2016 state legislative session approaches, AARP is gearing up to work on:

Designated Caregivers for Patients – Senate Bill 72

Expected to be reintroduced in January 2016, SB72 supports family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital, and provides training on medical tasks they will need to perform once their loved one returns home.

SB72 recognizes the critical role of family caregivers in keeping their loved ones out of the costly institutions, such as nursing homes. The bill features three important provisions:

  • The name of a family or other unpaid caregiver is recorded when a loved one is admitted into a hospital;
  • The caregiver is notified when the loved one is to be discharged back home; and
  • The hospital must provide a demonstration — either in person or recorded instruction of the medical tasks, such as wound care, medication management, injections, and transfers that the family caregiver will perform at home.

RAISE Family Caregivers Act

AARP has also been fighting for family caregivers on Capitol Hill and thanks Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her leadership and support of family caregivers.

Sen. Murkowski is a co-sponsor of the recently introduced, bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act that would require the development of a national strategy to recognize and support family caregivers; AARP has endorsed the RAISE Act. 

“Family caregiving is really an issue that impacts us all,” Snyder concluded. “It’s not a Democrat issue. It’s not a Republican issue. It’s a family issue.”

Spotlight: Family Caregivers in Alaska

Earlier this year, AARP conducted a statewide survey of registered voters age 45 and older in Alaska to learn about their experiences, challenges and needs as family caregivers, and attitudes toward public policy that would support family caregivers.  The survey found that most Alaska voters have experience as family caregivers (56%), or believe they are likely to be caregivers in the future (50%).

The typical Alaska family caregiver is over 55 years old. She cares for a loved one age 73 and works full or part time.

Key Results from the 2015 AARP Alaska Caregiving Survey

  • Both current and former caregivers have provided care in a myriad of ways, with more than two-thirds assisting with complex care like medication management (69%) and other medical tasks (67%). More than eight in ten have helped loved ones in their care with household management activities like shopping (87%), preparing meals (86%), chores (84%) and transportation (82%). Two-thirds are also helping to manage finances for their loved ones (66%).
  • 57% say it is likely they will need to provide similar types of care in the future.
  • 96% say it is important to be able to provide care so their loved ones can keep living independently at home.
  • When it comes to public policy options, Alaskan voters support: (1) Services to help older Alaskans stay at home; (2) resources and training for family caregivers; (3) community services so family caregivers can take a break; and (4) hospitals required to demonstrate medical and nursing tasks.

To read family caregivers’ stories from Alaska, visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.

 

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