by Kathy Eide Casas
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the 42 million Americans who help care for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones. At first glance, those numbers may appear staggering, but we all know someone who is providing care for an aging parent, relative, or friend. Any of us can become a caregiver in the blink of an eye. One minute your mom is walking, and the next you receive the call that she’s fallen and broken a hip. Or, you notice that your spouse or parent is forgetting more than they’re remembering. Life changes and roles change quickly as well.
Family caregivers play so many important roles and are shouldered with responsibilities within their families and communities. Some may be responsible for offering support to their senior loved ones through the organization of medical services and transportation, administration of medications, dressing, cooking, bathing, and the overall activities of daily living. Some may also provide advice on financial, legal, or emotional matters. Awesome responsibilities for caregivers, who many times are juggling work, children, and their own lives as well.
Here in the Central Valley, there are an estimated 346,588 adults currently aged 65 or older. 90,000 adults will be 65 years of age this year in Fresno County alone. There are 69,317 family caregivers in the Central Valley, with most caregivers in the Central Valley caring for someone aged 50 or older. The average age of a caregiver is 58 years old and 35% of caregivers are already working fulltime.
Additionally, as one generation ages and another struggles to reach financial autonomy, the obligations and responsibilities of family caregivers are growing into a new category. Today, there are many who find themselves caring for beloved members of both generations, a term which has come to be known as the “Sandwich Generation.”
The “Sandwich Generation” are middle-aged individuals who are pressured to support both aging parents and children at the same time. They are effectively “sandwiched” between the obligation to care for their aging parents (who may be ill, disabled or in need of financial support) and their children (who may require financial, physical and emotional support). Both generations need time, attention, and resources. The trends of increasing life spans and having children at an older age have contributed to the sandwich generation phenomenon.
In California, the Caregiver Resource Centers serve as a point of entry to services available to caregiving families in every county of California. Services are free or low cost and include: Specialized Information, Support Groups, Family Consultations and Care Planning, Respite Care, Legal and Financial Consultation, and Education and Professional Training. Here in the Central Valley, we are fortunate to have the Valley Caregiver Resource Center (VCRC) in our midst. VCRC covers, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Tuolumne Counties.
Michelle Mastro, the Executive Director of Valley Caregiver Resource Center, knows first hand that the services provided by VCRC can prove invaluable. Michelle first learned about VCRC while providing care for her own mother. Explained Michelle, “You don’t really know about VCRC until you need us and the services, programs and education we provide.” That has proven true for caregivers up and down the Valley. Michelle emphasized, “Valley Caregiver Resource Center is here to give you, the caregivers, all the tools you may need to take better care of your loved ones and take better care of yourself. Many times, caregivers can become stressed and exhausted, with the added demands placed on them. One of the most important lessons we share at Valley Caregiver, is that in order to provide care for another, you must first take care of yourself.”
Valley Caregiver Resource Center offers a comprehensive umbrella of services designed to help families and communities master the challenges of caring for loved ones. VCRC’s affiliated programs, Caregiver Resource, OASIS, PALS, Ombudsman & HICAP, provide a wide selection of programs and services, including adult day care, help with Medicare open enrollment, tips for staying healthy while caring for your loved one, respite for caregivers and ambassadors for those in long-term assisted living facilities.
For the past 26 years, the non-profit VCRC has promoted and continues to promote, personal and community well being. To learn more about the services Valley Caregiver provides or to learn how you can help them in their mission to connect the over-looked with what they need most in life, please visit valleycrc.org or call (559) 224-9154.
During this month of November, please join those below and take a moment to thank and recognize a caregiver for all they do.
Mr. Euquin Holguin on Valley Caregiver…
“Valley Caregiver Resource Center is an excellence organization. I have been with this organization since 2011. I have attended Valley Caregiver Resource Center’s workshops, classes, and the Men’s support group. I have learned a lot and gained knowledge in self-care as well as caregiving for my loved one. I attend the Men’s support group every month and I really enjoy it.
My wife attended Oasis Adult Day Care when I attended VCRC’s workshop or classes. The day care center comes in handy. The staff provides wonderful service to people that use the service.”
“ VALLEY CAREGIVER RESOURCE CENTER has been a great support for our family, and all the people who care for a loved one. In my case the support they have provide for me is priceless, I am very grateful with all of VALLEY CAREGIVER RESOURCE CENTER programs and help. One of the programs that VALLEY CAREGIVER RESOURCE CENTER offers and I love attending is the Spanish Support group. My husband and myself attend every month, because it lets us know that we are not alone; that there are other people going through the same situation we are going through. I can also add that having to receive a break from my caregiving situation has helped my husband and myself so much. Thank you for everything you have done for us.”
“Milo and I celebrated our 41st anniversary this year. His Alzheimer’s disease progresses and is complicated by several TIA’s (small strokes) that have affected his right side. We have found the Oasis Center this year where Milo goes during the week and is engaged in many activities and games. He often comes home with prizes! I have several wonderful groups with which I meet that keep me centered on Christ and giving and receiving love, hope and direction.
Sometimes families don’t really understand what is really going on and it’s nice to be included in an organization that provides assistance in times of great stress. With Valley Caregiver Resource Center, I have gained a profound knowledge in taking care of myself.”