Archive for August, 2010

CaregiverWe have spent more than a century anticipating and adapting to the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. As one of the largest nonprofit providers of senior affordable housing in the United States, as well as one of the largest nonprofit providers of nursing care and assisted living, we believe our mission today is to rise to the challenge of caring for an aging America. Recently, we hosted our second annual panel discussion in Washington D.C. on the future of care and services for older Americans.

We also worked with Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint to commission a study to determine the most challenging issues facing Americans regarding caregiving and aging. Our findings show that our Aging with Options™ initiative is on target in providing an integrated care and support system for older Americans and their caregivers.

Key Findings

1. Caregivers’ believe the economic downturn has made caregiving more difficult.

  • Nearly half of women caregivers (48 percent) say the economic situation has made providing care more difficult. Less educated, Democratic, and those with less income are more likely than others to feel this economic squeeze.
  • Over half of caregivers have provided financial assistance to a family member within the past two years for a variety of reasons, such as due to age, long-term illness, disability, or some combination. Few (11 percent) are paid for the care they provide.
  • Additionally, a significant proportion of non-caregivers (39 percent) are not confident about their ability to cover the costs of their possible future care responsibilities.
  • Time as much as money is key. People are giving time and missing work in order to provide care (47 percent have had to miss social events or vacations and 38 percent have had to miss work).

2. Caregiving is widespread and many expect a future caregiving role.

  • Approximately three in ten respondents overall (i.e. adults age 45 and older) are already current caregivers for a family member who is elderly, has a long-term illness, or a disability and a third of non-caregivers expect such a role in the future.
  • Roughly two-thirds of respondents overall expect they or someone else in their family will be the primary person responsible for providing this care, with a third saying they will be providing the care themselves.
  • Among current caregivers ages 45 to 65, roughly six in ten expect to have the primary responsibility to provide care for their parents or other elderly relatives and another quarter say someone else in their family will provide this care.
  • Noticeably, adults overall and caregivers tend to have similar attitudes and tend to be similar in the actions they have taken around preparing for their own future aging needs.

3. Americans over 45, as well as caregivers, strongly support aging policies that make caregiving easier and independence possible for aging Americans.

  • Adults over age 45 overwhelmingly prefer to remain in their own homes as they age and they strongly value the independence of seniors in general.
  • Allowing seniors to remain independent for as long as possible and allowing the elderly to age at home if they choose are core values to respondents overall and caregivers alike. This is not even a debate with the public.
  • There is also strong majority support for better workplace policies to help family meet obligations to aging family members. This particularly centers on flexible and alternative work schedules that allow workers to take time off.Allowing seniors to have assets in excess of $2,000 and still qualify for Medicaid to pay for long-term care and providing tax deductions to caregivers who provide care for aging family members prove the most popular policies.
  • Support for policy change around aging is quite strong. Majorities of respondents overall, caregivers, and people across demographic groups support each proposal presented.

4. There is a widespread lack of planning for the future. Many people have not started making necessary preparations for their own older years or for their future caregiving needs.

  • While a narrow majority of respondents have talked with family members about coordinating their future care needs, they are less likely to have talked with their doctor about aging issues, drafted a will or power of attorney, or looked into taking time off from work to provide care for an aging parent or family member.
  • Even among current caregivers, a sizable proportion have not started making plans for their own future needs.

Research Methodology

Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint designed and administered this survey which was conducted by professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 1,200 adults ages 45 and older nationwide with an oversample of 250 adults ages 45-65 who provide care to an elder family member. Relevant cases in the base were folded into the oversample. The survey was conducted April 7 to 14, 2010. Telephone numbers for the sample were drawn randomly from random digit dialing (RDD) sample. The sample was stratified by gender and geographically to reflect the population. Data were weighted slightly by party identification, education, and race to reflect the attributes of this universe. The margin of error for the base is +/- 2.8%; the margin of error for the oversample of caregivers is +/-4.4%. The use of the term “caregivers” in the report refers to those who are within the target 45 to 65 year old age range and who say they provide care to a family member who is elderly, disabled, or has a long-term illness.

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Mike King, VOA CEOA recent visit to our Volunteers of America affiliate in New Orleans continued my enlightenment on the resiliency of the human spirit and our need to channel this capacity as new challenges emerge. On the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we lift up and celebrate the achievements in recovery that our friends, colleagues and Volunteers of America “family” in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi have made possible through their courageous and tireless efforts.

Just when these communities were turning the corner on recovery, a senseless oil spill threatened their livelihoods and communities once again. While I was in New Orleans prior to the capping of the oil leak, I found the spirit and goal-oriented focus of the community to be undaunted. It served as a reminder to me that faith and compassion remain the most efficient fuels for the human spirit. Our challenge is to constantly recycle that fuel as we confront the ever-growing demand of human needs.

This is especially true when it comes to the needs of the children and families that Volunteers of America serves. Many of these families are caught in a cycle of poverty lasting for generations. Lack of education, incarceration and homelessness make it almost impossible for many parents to provide a bright future to their children.

There are always immediate needs, like basic food and shelter, which are essential for families to build strong, successful lives. Volunteers of America knows that before you can help a struggling man, woman or child find the inner strength to rebuild their life and renew their spirit, you must give them the physical strength to go on. Sometimes that can be as simple as providing someone with a nutritious meal.

Together, we can turn this simple dream into a reality. Your tax-deductible contribution can provide meals and other vital services for needy individuals and families.

But we also know that to end the long-term cycle of poverty that clouds the lives of these families, we must fix the underlying issues that prevent many children from reaching their full potential. In particular, Volunteers of America has focused its attention on the children of incarcerated parents, who are at particular risk. One of these programs, called CourtCare, is a free drop-in child care program for children ages six weeks to five years located in Portland, Oregon’s Multnomah County Courthouse. A project of the Multnomah Bar Association, CourtCare is operated by Volunteers of America Oregon and offers a safe, supportive environment with a full range of enriching, age-appropriate activities for children to enjoy for the duration of their parent’s involvement in court. In addition, CourtCare provides a needed link to other services within the community. Resources are available and guardians have the opportunity to talk with staff and explore the many resources and linkages available.

Throughout its history, Volunteers of America has provided a continuum of services to people in need. We understand that we must serve our clients immediate, day-to-day needs. But to truly turn around lives, we also must also address deeper issues that help people over the long term.

– By Mike King, President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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