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AARP: Pennsylvania Loves Family Caregivers

PHOTO: AARP says more should be done to recognize and support unpaid family caregivers. Photo courtesy of AARP.
PHOTO: AARP says more should be done to recognize and support unpaid family caregivers. Photo courtesy of AARP.
November 19, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. - November is National Family Caregivers Month. More than 2.5 million Pennsylvanians care for aging or ill parents or spouses at home. For many, this means the family can stay together instead of being separated, with one of them in a costly and often distant institution.

Estimates are family caregivers provide unpaid services valued at about $20 billion annually. Joe Griffiths of Lancaster has cared for his wife at their home for two years.

"Shortly following surgery my wife suffered a stroke that left her unable to walk or lift her left arm," says Griffiths. "I did everything I could to help her stay at home. I learned how to put her arm in a splint and her leg in a brace and transport her from the bed to the wheelchair. It wasn't easy, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

AARP has launched a website and campaign, called "I Heart Caregivers," to collect caregivers' stories in their own words.

AARP Pennsylvania state president Jim Palmquist says the state can do more to support unpaid caregivers.

"Our silent army of family caregivers helps seniors live independently, with dignity, each and every day," he says. "We want to honor these unsung heroes - while at the same time, fight to get them more support, training and help at home."

Palmquist says AARP will be working to pass legislation, the "Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act," next year in Pennsylvania. The CARE Act would require healthcare providers to better coordinate with caregivers when a loved one is moved or discharged from the hospital. It would also ensure the caregiver gets clear instructions for the types of care needed to make the transition.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - PA