Family caregivers are the backbone of our nation's system of long-term care for older adults. Every year, more than 34 million unpaid caregivers — mostly family members — provide essential aid to adults age 50 and older, helping with tasks such as bathing or dressing and, increasingly, performing complex medical tasks such as managing medications, dressing wounds and operating medical equipment.
What emotional and practical challenges do family caregivers face as they undertake these responsibilities? How do they cope with changing relationships, financial burdens and the distress that serious illness often provokes? How do they balance their own needs with the needs of the person they're caring for? Where do they find support?
In the first half hour, Kaiser Health News' "Navigating Aging" columnist Judith Graham speaks one-on-one with Dr. Arthur Kleinman, a distinguished professor of psychiatry and anthropology at Harvard University. He is the author of "The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and Doctor," a new book about caring for his wife, from the time she was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease.
Graham then leads a discussion among four panelists, who are also all caregivers themselves:
- Rita Choula, director of caregiving projects at AARP's Public Policy Institute
- Sheldon Friedman, a board member at the Well Spouse Association.
- Barry Jacobs, a psychologist and principal at Health Management Associates (Philadelphia)
- Kimberly Street, a faculty clinical instructor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.