By Brenda Garibaldi Hatfield, PhD
I am one of 660,000 family caregivers here in Louisiana. My husband and I are caregivers for his 97-year-old mother. It is gratifying to give back to our loved one, but nonetheless an emotional and physically tiring responsibility every day.
However, there are thousands of others who work tirelessly caring for older parents, spouses, partners, friends or other loved ones so that they can continue living independently, with dignity, at home—where they want to be.
While the vast majority of older Louisiana residents want to remain in their homes and communities as they age, the contributions of family caregivers cannot be overlooked. This silent army is the backbone of elder care in our state, providing 615 million hours of unpaid care valued at about $6.47 billion annually. Without the help of family caregivers, too many of our seniors would end up in costly institutions – often paid for by the state, through Medicaid.
The average caregiver devotes 24 hours each week to a loved one, helping with tasks like trips to the doctor, bathing and dressing, meal preparation and chores around the house. These caregivers often have a full or part-time job, so caregiving is done in their “spare time.”
For some family caregivers, their role is even more involved and stressful, 24 hours around the clock, often performing complicated medical tasks like wound care, injections and medication management— tasks that were once in the domain of only doctors or nurses.
It is important for these caregivers to have access to critical health care information so they can help make informed decisions about the health and the health care of their loved ones. Tools such as patient portals and electronic health records can be great assets to caregivers in accessing that information.
Yet even with those tools, caregivers could use a little help, and AARP is working hard with lawmakers and policymakers to find common sense solutions.
AARP was part of a workgroup that wrote a report, called “Louisiana Family Caregiver Blueprint,” that uncovered ways to support family caregivers. Some of these solutions include:
Helping family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they return home (The Louisiana Caregiver Act, SB 376).
Workplace flexibility so family caregivers don’t have to worry about losing their pay – or losing their jobs – when they have to take time off work to bring their older loved one to a doctor’s appointment.
“Respite care” that allows family caregivers to take a hard-earned break.
Access to the right resources available in the community, like home care and adult day programs.
Legislation to cut through the red tape and allow nurses to have the full authority to heal.
Help to navigate financial challenges by making sure adult guardianship laws are consistent and honored from state to state.
Every day is an opportunity for us to recognize the 660,000 family caregivers in Louisiana who give their hearts to help their older loved ones stay at home—where they want to live.
So to all family caregivers in Louisiana, thank you for all that you do.
Brenda Hatfield, PhD, is the AARP Regional Volunteer Director, South Region, and a member of the Health Care Consumer Advisory Council. She has been a teacher, librarian, instructional media and technology administrator, cable executive and a retired city administrator.
How does the caretaker get the direct financial help that would come from the disability insurance provided by patient's employer if the husband currently receives the payout but unwilling to take on responsibility to provide the intense adequate care needed? Expenses such as 24/7 personal assistance for feeding, diaper change, bathing etc.; elevator, disability van among other needs.
The caretaker would be a sister for 24/7 around the clock. The patient is currently in a hospital and the doctor assigned to her now says she would only allow her (patient) to be released to her
sister whom has been taking care of her every personal need (with minimum) help from hospital staff. The husband does not lift a finger to help with any need for patient(wife) and communicated verbally several times to staff and sisters that he will not and does not plan to be a caretaker once she is released by the hospital.
Mr. Bankster: I've shared your comments with a number of health care professionals who specialize in geriatrics and caregiver support services, and their recommendation is that you begin by discussing these issues with the social worker in the hospital at which the patient is receiving care. Please remember, some social workers are also nurses, and remember, too, that this role is not to be confused with the hospital's discharge planner. You may also find additional resources, support services and legal assistance in your area through the National Center on Caregiving's Family Caregiver Alliance website, www.caregiver.org.