During this season of sharing and giving thanks, AARP recognizes the silent army of Iowa family caregivers and partner organizations that provide the assistance they need to manage their caregiving responsibilities.
"Especially in this busy time, we want caregivers to know they are appreciated and that there are great local community resources available across Iowa to help support them now and throughout the year," said Kent Sovern AARP Iowa State Director.
As part of the launch of AARP's new "I Heart Caregivers" campaign, AARP Iowa recently partnered with the Iowa Asian Alliance, Area Agencies on Aging in Central and Eastern Iowa and other local organizations to host "Caregiver Connections" networking events in Des Moines and Marion.
Family caregiver attendees at the events learned about the wide variety of supports and services available to them including free legal services, respite services, adult day centers, support groups and local programs to help lighten their caregiving load. "I had no idea these kinds of programs were available," and "I didn't know I could get this kind of help," were often-repeated comments.
Lily Liu, of AARP’s National Office, was the keynote speaker at the event in Des Moines. She is a family caregiver for her mother. As AARP’s historian, Liu shared insights into how the family caregiving experience of AARP’s founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, shaped her vision for the organization.
Lily noted that there was great diversity among the event attendees, but there were many similarities in their needs and interests as family caregivers. “Many of the participants felt comfortable sharing their own caregiving stories," Liu noted. " We were all struck by the common themes of feeling alone, overwhelmed and in need of information. Having the local resource experts present was especially helpful. I think folks left feeling more empowered and less isolated."
Sovern said the "I Heart Caregivers" campaign is designed to help raise the visibility for family caregivers, connect caregivers with resources, and provide an outlet for caregivers to share their stories. "Because most Iowa family caregivers don't even think of themselves as caregivers, instead thinking of themselves as 'just taking care of Mom,' or 'helping Dad cook and clean,' that means many Iowa family caregivers don't know out about or access the resources available in their local communities that can help them."
AARP thanks recent Iowa "Caregiving Connections" partners including the Iowa Asian Alliance, Aging Resources of Central Iowa, the Legal Hotline for Older Iowans, the Alzheimer's Association of Central Iowa, Rebuilding Together, the Heritage Area Agency on Aging, and Right at Home of Cedar Rapids for their participation and support. See a Cedar Rapids Gazette related feature article on caregiving resources, here.
Together with these and other partner organizations, AARP Iowa is gearing up to connect with family caregivers across the state in 2015 to continue to help connect and provide support for the growing number of hard-working Iowa family caregivers and their loved ones.
When it comes to family dynamics today, caregiving is the norm," Sovern said. More than 42 million Americans, including an estimated 540,000 Iowans (about 18 percent of the state's population) provide unpaid care to adults each year across the state.