More help for at-home caregivers

More help for at-home caregivers

By: Barbara Peters Smith

When Susan Jackewicz’s father fell ill, she rushed from Boston to her parents’ Palmer Ranch home to help her mother cope. She planned to be in Sarasota for six months. She wound up tending to her parents for the next 12 years.

While the availability of residential care for the elderly in Southwest Florida has remained level for the last decade, the number of people 85 and older living in their homes has exploded — creating a burden carried mostly by their spouses and children.

The AARP Public Policy Institute has estimated that the total economic value of family caregiving was $350 billion in 2006 — $17.3 billion in Florida alone. Without relatives pitching in, the institute said, taxpayers would be on the hook for that assistance, largely through nursing homes.

Now, local agencies that serve caregivers are seeking to coordinate their support for this unpaid and untrained workforce. Organizations including the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida, the Senior Friendship Centers and the Pines Education Institute will meet Tuesday to discuss forming an “umbrella group” to offer information and referral services for caregivers.

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