Odds are if you are over 45, you already are or soon will be a caregiver. Seventy-five percent of all care received by older adults in the United States is provided by family members and friends, and many do not even identify themselves as caregivers.
Since most of us find ourselves in this role somewhat unexpectedly, it is hard to know where to start to find accurate information on services or even know what services are needed. This confusion is often compounded by feelings of sadness, loss or fear for what the future holds for the loved one we are now caring for. Unlike professionals, we have a personal connection and attachment that cannot be separated from the work of caregiving.
So what is the first thing we do as caregivers? We go to the web in search of information, agencies and resources, anything that can help us get a handle on how best to provide care. Google “caregiving” and you get 2.7 million hits. Even in just Massachusetts, you get 1.9 million hits; narrow it even further for the MetroWest region, and you get 71,000 listings. And of course, many of these sites are of just trying to sell you something or simply provide a list of names and addresses.
In response to the need for targeted, reliable information for caregivers, BayPath Elder Services, the MetroWest area’s designated agency on aging, with support from the MetroWest Health Foundation, launched the Caregiving MetroWest website in May 2014. This comprehensive web portal is designed to provide information tailored to the needs of older adults. From finding a drugstore that delivers, to understanding the difference between adult day health and adult day care, the website addresses the needs of caregivers in the 25 MetroWest communities the MetroWest Health Foundation serves. The website development was guided by an advisory board made up of local caregivers to ensure the utility of its content. The website also connects to the vast information and referral network that BayPath maintains in support of area caregivers. Since its launch, the website has had over 585 unique visitors.
As caregivers, we struggle to understand what our caregiving role really is. We struggle to understand what is best for the one we are caring for. We struggle to find balance between our own lives and our new caregiving responsibilities. Seventy percent of caregivers need to rearrange work schedules, reduce their work hours or take unpaid leave in order to be an effective caregiver. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the 10 million children who care for parents over age 50 will lose an estimated $3 trillion in lost wages, retirement benefits, pensions and Social Security benefits, and women lose more than men, an average of $324,044 as compared to $283,716.
Caregiving can be tough work. The addition of Caregiving MetroWest will hopefully make it a little easier for caregivers to find the information they need in the 25 communities the website serves. The website also includes a Caregiver Toolkit, Caregiving Chronicles Blog, and Discussion Forum.
Visit the website to learn more: www.caregivingmetrowest.org
What support is available to caregivers in your community?