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U.S. Senator Hears from Family Caregivers

Senior receiving assistance. Credit: iStockphoto.
Senior receiving assistance. Credit: iStockphoto.
August 3, 2015

DENVER - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet met with family caregivers on Friday to discuss challenges they face helping older spouses, parents and other loved ones live independently and at home.

The Fort Collins event was organized by AARP Colorado. Bennet, a democrat, recently co-sponsored the "RAISE Family Caregivers Act," legislation that would develop a national strategy to support caregivers.

"They're really unsung heroes in our society," says Bennet. "They don't ask for much and they spend their time giving. They drive to doctor's appointments, manage medications, cook, clean, and dress their loved ones."

Bennet said it's an issue that can impact any family at any time. According to a new AARP study, more than half a million Coloradans are caregivers, and they put in approximately 543 million hours of unpaid work each year. The report estimates the economic value of family care in the state is more than $7.4 billion dollars annually.

Pam Allen, a caregiver in Fort Collins, attended the event. She takes care of her 62-year-old husband who suffers from dementia. Allen had to quit her job as a human resource director two years ago when she realized it wasn't safe to leave her husband home alone.

She says the 24-7 oversight can be overwhelming and was grateful to find Elderhaus, a nonprofit that provides day care for seniors.

"Elderhaus gave me my life back," says Allen. "They are priceless because they allow me, in my retirement now, to go and do the things I do and then also give me time to give back to the community."

AARP Colorado is hopeful stories like Allen's will inspire federal and local officials to find solutions that support all of the state's caregivers and their loved ones.

For more family care resources and to share your story, visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO