It is not uncommon to see or hear someone describing their experience caring for an older parent, spouse, or another relative and have others chime in with their own stories.
It is hard to remember when my brother, Jeff, and I realized that our parents could no longer live independently, but it seemed to happen in an instant. We were both ill-prepared for becoming primary family caregivers. We never had any discussions with our parents about aging and their wishes. Beyond their care, there were their finances, medical, bills, insurance, mail, taxes, and the list goes on. Caring for our parents became even more challenging when Jeff suddenly passed away. Since then, I clumsily fumbled my way through navigating through the many different tasks, often learning the hard way. Today, I am a little smarter, but I know there are still a lot of unknowns that I will have to face in the future.
My experience is not unique. The reality is that many of us have (or will) experience this same task of caring for an elderly loved one.
With the aging population growing and people living longer than ever, rising and often prohibitive costs of long-term care, and constraints on government programs (e.g. Medicare) and private financing options, more and more older adults with long-term care needs are relying exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance.
What should we be doing today to address caring for the elderly? What more is needed to support them to live where they want to live, care for their health, wellness, and safety, and stay active and part of their community? What can we do to support those who take on the responsibility of caring for them?
Although most nursing and assisted living facilities are run by for-profit companies, Aging Services Organizations (ASO), nonprofits dedicated to serving aging populations, play an integral role within the social fabric that supports elderly persons and their primary caregivers. ASO provide a wide range of services including food programs, transportation, housing, case management, adult day care, in-home services and nursing facilities. Yet, only 6 percent of nonprofit organizations in the US that file tax returns are focused on providing services to aging populations. Within this small nonprofit sector, over half of all ASO operate with an annual revenue at or under $500,000. They also face hurdles in fundraising, receiving 20 percentage points less in contributions in comparison to other public charities (30% compared to 50% of total revenue).
At Red String, we believe more needs to be done to direct additional funding from Government, businesses, and philanthropic sources to help address both the way we care for elderly persons and better support family members providing primary care; ultimately, enabling more elderly adults to realize their goal of living where they want to live and remaining active within their communities while combating elderly related issues such as elder abuse, social isolation, dementia, and preventative illnesses.
(to be continued)