Lehigh Valley

Life Lessons: Caregiving Forum

Life Lessons Caregiver forum

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - It is estimated that more than 34 million Americans provide care for an ill or disabled adult relative.

In response to this issue, AARP of Pennsylvania recently held caregiving forums in the Lehigh Valley to try and get information for change.

Experts who work with older adults say we need to talk about how we care for the caregiver.

Amy Goyer, a home and family expert for AARP was one of the panelists at the recent gathering at LVHN in Allentown that attracted about 200 people.

In 2009 she moved to Arizona to care for her aging parents but she travels frequently to Washington, DC,., for business. She writes a column on AARP.org and recently wrote a book, "Juggling Work and Caregiving."

" It can be incredibly overwhelming being a caregiver, partially because caregiving doesn't happen in a vaccuum, so the rest of your life is going on," says Goyer.

Goyer shares her very private story in hopes of giving other people valuable information to make their lives easier.

" I think the most challenging is trying to balance the other relationships in my life because taking care of my parents has sort of taken over my life,:" she says.

The recent Caregiving Forum at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown was held in conjunction with AARP.

It's part of a state wide campaign to raise awareness and get help for caregivers.

Jim Palmquist is the AARP Pennsylvania Volunteer President. "About a billion hours in labor is given every year in Pennsylvania in caregiving, so it's a huge impact on our society," says Palmquist.

Dr. Robert Barraco, LVHN geriatric trauma surgeon says he sees many caregivers each day.

"As we get into our census projects for the next 30 to 50 years, our population in the geriatric age group is going to be growing and I think there's going to be more needs not only for the patients themselves but for the caregivers," he says.

Experts encourage caregivers to:
*Take care of yourself
*Ask for help
*Tell your story

"Go to a caregiver support group, reach out to people in your faith community, your family your friends, tell people what you're doing because people can't help you number one if they don't know and number two, by raising awareness, there's going to be more and more support for caregivers," says Amy Goyer.

She also says you should have a caregiving plan that will change and evolve as you and your family go through the process.

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