Hawaii has the highest percentage of residents age 85+ in the nation – a segment of our population that is projected to grow by nearly 60 percent over the next 20 years. As the demand for long-term care and caregiver services skyrockets, advocates worry that the emotional, health and financial pressures on Hawaii’s family caregivers will reach a breaking point.
To help address these concerns, and provide family caregivers with the support they need to care for aging family members and friends, AARP Hawaii sponsored two events for caregivers on Oahu in November. More than 400 people attended the events and donated hundreds of pounds of rice and canned goods for Lanakila Meals on Meals and the Hawaii Food Bank.
In 2009, there were roughly 247,000 unpaid family caregiver in Hawaii, providing an estimated $1.1 billion worth of unpaid care to adult and aging relatives and friends. A popular misconception is that family caregivers are paid health professionals, providing full-time care to someone in need of daily help. In reality, most caregivers are also working and managing their own families at the same time. Many caregivers are women of the “sandwich” generation, who care for their kids and their aging parents at the same time.
In addition to sponsoring local events for caregivers, AARP has also created an on-line Caregiving Resource Center with advice, tips and support to help caregivers better care for themselves and the ones they love. Additionally, AARP is advocating at all levels of government to raise awareness and inspire social change to improve the lives of family caregivers.
According to research sponsored by AARP and the Ad Council, the average family caregiver is a boomer woman who works full time and helps her parents or loved one by providing 20 hours a week as an unpaid family caregiver. Two-thirds are caring for someone with a chronic condition like cancer or heart disease. A third are caring for someone with dementia. Given the daily challenges they face, caregivers often feel isolated, frustrated and overwhelmed. Many don’t know where to turn for help, information and support.