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Supporting Family Caregivers

In a recent conversation with family caregivers, Ohio Consumer Voice for Integrated Care (OCVIC) manager John Arnold learned that, not surprisingly, the health of most family caregivers has deteriorated or is starting to deteriorate.  These unpaid family caregivers spoke of the emotional stress and physical and financial strain of being a caregiver. The stress is further increased when the caregivers cannot get help from a personal care assistant.

In addition to caring for their loved one and managing finances, family caregivers communicate with the care recipient’s healthcare professional and advocate for their loved one, making the caregiver an important part of the care team. It is noteworthy that most caregivers were not employed before assuming the unpaid caregiving role. This means at a time of life when their income is fixed, they are performing the difficult task of managing household finances for both themselves and their spouse.

Why is there a need for caregiver support? The average length of time the caregivers have been in their role is five years. The three most common areas of health concerns reported by the caregivers for their care recipient are Alzheimer’s/Dementia, old age issues, and heart disease, about which they lack access to information and resources on managing as a caregiver. Caregivers reported missing their own doctor’s appointments and forgoing what they need to ensure their care recipient gets all the support and services they need.

As in other states (such as Tennessee), we in Ohio need to ensure that caregivers become an integral part of the assessment process. We know that Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) and health care providers, such as doctors, nurses, or social workers, typically ask what is needed to care for the recipient. However, caregivers all say the MCOs and other healthcare providers do not ask what they need to take care of themselves. In addition to being part of the assessment process, more hours need to be allocated for personal care attendants and access to adult day care to allow for more “me time” for caregivers.

Let me hear your experience as a caregiver. Call John Arnold at (614) 456-0060 ext. 237 or email jarnold@uhcanohio.org. You can also tell your story through the AARP Ohio Care for Caregivers campaign.

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