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Bracing for the Impact of an Aging Kentucky

PHOTO: Kentucky is studying ways to improve services needed by the hundreds of thousands of family caregivers across the state. Photo courtesy AARP Kentucky.
PHOTO: Kentucky is studying ways to improve services needed by the hundreds of thousands of family caregivers across the state. Photo courtesy AARP Kentucky.
April 21, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. - By 2030, just 16 years from now, more than 106,000 Kentuckians will be 85 or older, and that projection has Kentucky's lawmakers calling for a study of services available to family caregivers. The state Senate and House unanimously passed a resolution (CR102) directing their research branch to make recommendations for improvements.

In Senora in Hardin County, Normaline Skees, who was the primary caregiver for her late husband, mom, dad and uncle, said with a sigh that it was a heavy burden.

"The biggest challenge is getting everything done," she said. "You know, your other duties in life do not quit."

Skees describes herself as a caregiver much of the time from the 1980s until her husband died of leukemia in 2012. Both her parents had cancer, and an uncle suffered from dementia.

According to AARP, 735,000 Kentuckians are caregivers for loved ones, providing an estimated 704 million hours of unpaid care worth more than $7 billion a year.

Kentucky AARP President Jim Kimbrough calls caregiving a "really fragmented system," and said he hopes the study will uncover ways that can help caregivers.

"More money may be needed, but it also may be that we need to find out if the system needs to be tightened in some ways, not necessarily with money, but to be tightened to work smoother."

Kimbrough says that in addition to taking inventory of public and private services, the study will examine the effect of caregiving responsibilities on those who undertake them.

Normaline Skees says the researchers will surely note that primary caregivers get "burned out," and most don't have money to hire sitters.

"I mean just plain help, whether it's coming in and doing a little bit of respite or giving them an opportunity to get away from the situation a little bit," is what's needed, she said.

Skees says caregivers have misgivings about putting loved ones in nursing homes, but often feel they don't have options.

The Legislative Research Commission will deliver its recommendations in December.

CR102 is at LRC.ky.gov.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY