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I "Heart" Caregivers Campaign Salutes AR's 'Silent Army'

Nearly 700,000 Arkansans are being recognized as a "silent army" for the work they do as caregivers for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones. Credit: AARP.
Nearly 700,000 Arkansans are being recognized as a "silent army" for the work they do as caregivers for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones. Credit: AARP.
November 5, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Nearly 700,000 Arkansans are being recognized as a "silent army" for the work they do as caregivers for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones so they can avoid ending up in institutional-care facilities, which are costly.

Today, AARP is kicking off its "I Heart Caregivers" campaign, which shines a spotlight on stories of care-giving as well as the value of their unpaid work, pegged at more than $4.5 billion a year in Arkansas alone. Shelly Moran of Cabot is one of those being featured. She left her job and her home to care for her mother after she broke her hip.

"One of the largest blessings of my life was having the opportunity to care for my mother, but I was totally unprepared for it," says Moran.

The financial hardship is still impacting Moran, even as her mother passed away two years ago. AARP Arkansas is recommending more respite care be made available, as well as financial support, home care, training and adult day care.

AARP research shows nearly three-quarters of older Arkansans want to age in their homes, and home care is far less expensive than institutionalized care. Moran described the experience as a mix of everyday chores and tasks that, not long ago, would only have been managed by doctors and nurses - such as changing surgical dressings.

"I was the cook, the cleaner, housekeeper, I managed the medicines, I was the chauffeur - all those things to help her have quality of life here in her own home," she says.

AARP says the average family caregiver is a 49-year-old female, taking care of a 77-year-old woman, usually her mother. Caregiver stories are featured at "www.AARP.org/IHeartCaregivers."

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - AR