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I Heart Caregivers: Spotlighting Those Who Help Others in MO

PHOTO: Caregivers lend much more than a helping hand to help those they love, so AARP is reaching out to support and honor the role they play in their families and their community. Photo courtesy AARP.
PHOTO: Caregivers lend much more than a helping hand to help those they love, so AARP is reaching out to support and honor the role they play in their families and their community. Photo courtesy AARP.
November 19, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - They are unsung heroes: hundreds of thousands of Missourians who do double duty caring for aging or ill parents, spouses, or loved ones. But there are financial and emotional price tags, which is why AARP Missouri wants to connect caregivers with tools to help them.

State director Craig Eichelman says there is a silent army of Missourians who do what they can to help loved ones, all while attending to their own lives and jobs.

"I don't think a lot of caregivers think of themselves as caregivers," says Eichelman. "'I'm just taking care of Mom.' 'I'm just taking Dad to the barber.' 'I'm just helping him get dressed in the morning.' In Missouri, there's a little over 800,000 people who can be called caregivers."

In honor of National Caregivers Month, AARP Missouri is spotlighting caregiving resources at a new website. Caregivers and others can log on to share stories and find support at "AARP.org/iheartcaregivers."

Eichelman says the majority of Missourians will be caregivers at some point in their lives. While every situation is different, he says the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman taking care of an elderly parent, providing 20 hours of unpaid care per week and often forced to make tough choices.

"Some are on call for 24 hours, seven days a week," says Eichelman. "So, you think of folks in the prime of their work-earning life who are leaving the workforce to take care of an aging parent."

AARP Missouri estimates the value of the unpaid work provided by family caregivers across the state at roughly $8 billion a year. That includes managing medications, finances, bathing and dressing, meal preparation, transportation, grocery shopping, and much more for their loved ones.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO