Caregivers Corps: Addressing the Urgent Caregiver Crisis

Anyone who is caring for a sick relative or friend – and that is 60 million Americans, knows why there is an urgent need to do something about the growing caregiver crisis.

As a person who has had my aging parent’s doctors on speed dial and sleeps with the phone stashed under my pillow, I know firsthand how the treks to emergency room can leave you spinning in exhaustion. That’s been my life for the past six years. First came my dad, and then less than a year after his funeral, my mom’s health started going downhill. The worst is the emotional pain, because you know that no matter what you do, it won’t get any better, that’s just life.

I'm certainly not alone. When my friends and I get together we speak the language of CT scans,  hip replacements,  nursing homes, mobility devises (code for wheelchairs) and hospice.  My friend Beth races back and forth from the hospital where her father has had a procedure and diagnosis of cancer to the nursing home where her mom lives,  all the time juggling caring for four kids and her job as an accountant in tax season. In my case, last summer was spent dodging out of my office at lunch to get my mom to doctor's appointments, then last fall,  balancing my laptop and work as I tried to be omnipresent at her bedside during two months of hospitalization. My friend Laura is a full-time teacher and caregiver for her mom. Her weekends are a wipe out of mom-related activities. It goes on..... Don't get me wrong, we all love and want to be there for our parents. We wouldn't do it any other way. But the worst part is that most of us don’t have a B-team.  We are the A and the B teams.

What do we need most? Rescue, or at least some help on the front lines.

That’s why I love the idea Janice Lynch Schuster, has come up with:  a Caregiver Corps. Same idea as the Peace Corps. A senior writer for the non-profit health systems research Altarum Institute,  she’s launched a petition on the White House Web site to create a Caregivers Corps. One of the cool ideas: College graduates who volunteer to care for our elders would have their educational debts forgiven.

On her blog, Disruptive Women in Health Care,”   she explains the need for a Caregiver Corps and some ways to go about doing it.

She writes: “We petition the Obama Administration to: Create a Caregiver Corps. More than 60 million Americans are family caregivers. They face challenges. Health suffers. Finances suffer. Families suffer. Aging Boomers will overwhelm our caregiving resources. Let’s create a Caregiver Corps that would marry college debt forgiveness with programs that place recent graduates with families and aging services providers. Let’s bridge the generational divide that promotes ageism. Let’s do it!”

What are we waiting for? Sign the Petition Now

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    Someone's Gotta Give

    Mary Beth Sammons is an award-winning journalist and author who writes about the ups and downs of handling life, health and wellness, and reinventing your life with grace and gusto. As vice-president of editorial, Mary Beth helped launch CarePages.com, a Web site for patients and caregivers facing significant illness and loss. Currently she is the editor of an Internet start-up for chronic pain sufferers, PainResource. com. She also creates cause-related marketing campaigns for several non-profits including Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School, a start-up high school in Chicago’s toughest neighborhood on the West Side. Mary Beth has written ten books, including: Living Life as a Thank You: The Transformative Power of Daily Gratitude" (Viva Editions.)

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