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IN family caregivers are in need of more support

Young caregiver in uniform helping an elderly man shave his face
Gecko Studio - stock.adobe.com
Young caregiver in uniform helping an elderly man shave his face

About 790,000 Hoosiers are family caregivers for relatives in declining physical or mental health. But Indiana ranks fairly low in support for family caregivers on the latest AARP national scorecardfor Long-Term Care Services and Supports. It's 39th compared to other states.

As Indiana transitions away from reliance on nursing-home care into more home and community-based services, families play an even bigger role.

Marvell Adams Jr., CEO of the online resource 'CaregiverAction.org, said support is improving. He said 30 years ago, a caregiver's duties were not clearly defined, and support was nearly nonexistent.

"The organization really was started out of the notion that caregivers really did need to have a voice in order for their role not only to be more effective, but also they could be understood and respected as a vital part of an individual's treatment plan," Adams said.

Adams added family caregivers need to safeguard their own health in order to provide the most effective care. He also advises frequent communication with physicians and keeping medical and legal documents organized and easily accessible. According to AARP, family members in Indiana provide unpaid care worth more than $10 million a year.

For many families, caregiving doesn't even happen in the same household. The National Institute on Aging defines a long-distance caregiver as one who lives an hour or more away from the person being cared for, often by a local relative. Adams suggested coming up with strategies to pitch in remotely.

"Long-distance caregivers are going to want and need information; they're going to want and need insight. Being able to plan out visits in advance -- perhaps the caregiver
that is local can plan for that, whether it's for their own respite or for checking in with doctor's visits, but being able to set that up ahead of time," Adams said.

The NIA says long-distance caregivers can also help with preparing a living will or researching long-term care choices.

According to the site healthinaging.org,' of the 34 million Americans who care for older family members, roughly 15% do so long-distance.

Terri Dee has worn many hats in her nearly 30-year career in radio, tv, and print as a news reporter
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