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Passing the Generational Burden

Photo: An AARP survey indicates caregivers of the elderly in South Dakota need help and support. Image by GDNS.
Photo: An AARP survey indicates caregivers of the elderly in South Dakota need help and support. Image by GDNS.
May 11, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – AARP South Dakota has released findings of a statewide survey highlighting family caregiver experiences, challenges and needs in the state.

The survey recognizes and supports the important role many South Dakotans play throughout the years as family caregivers.

Sarah Jennings, state director of AARP-South Dakota, says it is a huge sacrifice for many people.

"Around 147,000 South Dakotans on any given day are giving care to a family member or friend,” she points out. “That uncompensated care, such as thinking about if you have to pay someone to do the chores, help with the finances or help with medication, that's valued at over a billion dollars annually here in South Dakota."

Jennings says common sense solutions are needed to help people who are taking on these responsibilities.

The survey of 800 South Dakota registered voters age 45 and older shows a majority are either current or former caregivers or believe they are likely to be caregivers in the future.

Jennings says health care facilities can provide help to the caregivers, too.

"If they have a family member who is leaving a hospital, to make sure the hospital takes the time to engage with the caregiver to make sure they know how to take care of their loved one as they get home,” she stresses. “I think some of our hospitals already do that as common practice, and I think we want to make sure that is something that is absolutely standard and is something that every single caregiver has access to that information and support when they go home with their loved one."

The survey shows a majority of working caregivers say they had to modify their work schedules by taking time off or going to work early or late to provide care.

Others have taken a leave of absence from work, gone from working full to part time or given up working entirely to provide care for a loved one.

Jennings says support for caregivers can come in various forms.

"There is a lot that comes in the form of support groups maybe through your church, or through a health system,” she explains. “There's other ways you can get sort of that emotional support, so we say, or there's also resources you can get maybe through your employer, and there may be instances where it makes sense for the state to get involved in terms of legislation or things like that."

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD