Mark Lee never thought of himself as a caregiver. It wasn’t part of his life plan, but then no one plans on a parent getting Alzheimer’s. So, when his mom no longer could care for his dad alone, Mark moved in with his parents and became an unpaid caregiver for his dad while also running his photography business.
Mark made a choice millions of people wrangle with each year: How can we care for Dad (or Mom) when they no longer can live without assistance? Mark cared for his dad until his death in 2013, and now Mark has become a full-time, paid caregiver for his mom. It’s an experience he wouldn’t trade, but as Mark—one of 53 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S.—will tell you, it’s not easy. Caregiving can be lonely, stressful, and mentally and physically exhausting.
The need for family caregivers continues to expand as our population ages. The State of Aging in Central Indiana report found that four out of five older adults in Central Indiana provide care to a friend or loved one. Two in five older adults provide care for someone over the age of 60, and 25 percent of older adults in our area are physically, emotionally or financially burdened by caregiving responsibilities.
The need is real, and it’s growing every day.
Help for Caregivers in Central Indiana
First, let me tell you what we are doing about it, and then let me explain how you can help.
CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions comes alongside family caregivers with one-on-one counseling as well as group education and support.
We also rely on our valued partners. Organizations such as Joy’s House, Catholic Charities and PrimeLife Enrichment—along with many others—provide needed respite care and support services. These partners have been invaluable to families who often feel the strain of caregiving.
CICOA is working on a pilot program to assist caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. This is a joint partnership with four similar Area Agencies on Aging in Indiana as well as the IU School of Medicine, the Indiana Division of Aging and Eskenazi Health. The pilot is made possible through a $1.3 million grant from the Administration for Community Living. Our goal with these funds is to identity areas where we can connect caregivers to resources, so they don’t get burned out or sacrifice their own needs.
We are providers of services, but we also are advocates. We support programs that offer paid care and resources for caregivers to lessen their burdens.
So, how can you help? Continue donating to efforts that provide adult day care services, support groups and more. Join CICOA in advocating for financial benefits for caregivers. Finally, if you know someone who is an unpaid caregiver, reach out. Offer to take them a meal or help with a task, ask how you can support them in their caregiving journey, and please tell them about CICOA.
Most adults do not believe support services are available for caregivers, but CICOA is here to help. Give now to help us reach more caregivers in need and lift some weight off their shoulders.