Nov 23, 2011, 1:24 PM, Posted by Jennie Chin Hansen
By Jennie Chin Hansen, RN, MSN, Chief Executive Officer, American Geriatrics Society
As societies around the world grapple with aging populations, the challenges to caregiving have garnered considerable attention. Already an under-supported group in so many countries, today’s caregivers face an array of new pressures that strain the vital services they provide to older adults. Around the world, unsung heroes assume caregiver roles without question, without hesitation, and without recognition. It is often said that caregiving is the backbone of our global long-term care system.
While caring for an older adult can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime, it can also be stressful and frustrating. This is especially likely if the older adult has dementia or needs around-the-clock complex care. In fact, most family caregivers are spouses or children. They may have age-related health problems of their own; or they may have small children to care for, or work outside the home, or all of these.
In 1984, my father suffered a second debilitating stroke that left him unable to continue caring for my mother. Widowed and raising a 7-year-old, I decided to move my parents across the country to San Francisco where I was living and where I happened to work at On Lok Senior Health Services, which became the prototype for the now recognized PACE program, caring for elders who want to remain in the community despite their frailty.
I first brought my mother out with me, and she lived with me for a few months. When I went to see my father in Boston, I noticed that my father actually had greater capacity than many of the physicians at the nursing home thought he did. I didn’t agree with their treatment and decided we were going to bring him to San Francisco. So I discharged him “against medical advice” – there’s a term for that, called AMA.