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Valuing the Invaluable: The Struggles of Ohio Caregivers

PHOTO: A new report from AARP finds about 1.4 million family caregivers in Ohio provided nearly one million hours of unpaid care to their parents, spouses, partners and other adult loved ones in 2013. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/Morguefile.
PHOTO: A new report from AARP finds about 1.4 million family caregivers in Ohio provided nearly one million hours of unpaid care to their parents, spouses, partners and other adult loved ones in 2013. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/Morguefile.
July 16, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio – More than 1.4 million Ohioans spend their days – and nights – responding to the needs of an older loved one. A new report from AARP's Public Policy Institute highlights the struggles these family caregivers face.

Beth Hargreaves of Youngstown cares for her aging mother, who suffers from dementia. She says the responsibility has put a strain on her family's finances.

"I have to continue to work even though I'd planned to retire by now, and I'm really privileged to be able to do so," she says. "I sometimes give concerns for myself, but there really isn't a choice in the matter. I'm not going to pull my mother out of the home where's she's comfortable and aware of what's going on."

According to the findings from the Valuing the Invaluable report, caregivers in Ohio provided more than one million hours of unpaid care – worth more than $16 million – to their parents, spouses and others in 2013.

Hargreaves says as the population ages, the need for family caregiving will grow and affect most people at some point in their lives. She says elderly Ohioans are among the most vulnerable in the state, and deserve assistance.

"They helped advance our society in so many ways, from fighting in wars to raising educated and responsible children," she says. "Is it really too much to ask for help for those who are charged with their care, and who volunteer that care?"

Trey Addison, associate director with AARP Ohio, says the survey found some caregivers are "extremely" stressed emotionally from their responsibilities, while others face a high financial burden. He says legislation supporting caregivers will be the organization's priority with state lawmakers this fall.

"Family caregivers have become much more complex, and the process is more stressful and it's more costly," he says. "Today Americans both live longer and have fewer children. We have to come up with public policies that not only support the caregiver at home, but in the workplace and throughout the healthcare system."

AARP is working to move the Ohio Caregiver Act forward. The bill would improve communication and coordination between caregivers and hospitals when their loved one is a patient.

Family-caregivers in Ohio can find resources and share their stories at www.aarp.org/Iheartcaregivers.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH