A trend in the Catawba Valley is supported by nationwide statistics: A Gallup poll concluded that caring for seniors is a primary task for mid-life adults, mostly women, with consequences for their jobs.
When her 89-year-old mother decided to leave her life in Alabama and live near her daughter in 2009, Frances Hall struggled, noting that her “background in higher education administration and years of being my mother’s main support did not even begin to adequately prepare me” for this stage of care.
“Caring for an aging parent is a joy and privilege. At times, though, it can be challenging,” Hall said.
During conversations with colleagues at Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she worked, Hall found she was not alone. She started meetings but realized that “the needs of adult children were far greater than what mutual story-sharing could allay.”
To address that need, Hall started programs for the group she called ACAP — Adult Children of Aging Parents. “I began inviting monthly speakers, professionals in issues of aging and/or caregiving, to address topics relevant to the group,” she said.
During her research, Hall found there are an estimated 15 million adult-child caregivers in the United State. “The average adult-child caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works full-time and spends 20 hours per week on caregiving responsibilities.
“For someone dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s, 40 hours a week is the typical amount of time spent in caregiving. More than one in six Americans working full or part time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend. Seventy percent of caregivers working at least 15 hours per week said caregiving significantly affects their work life.
“One in five adult-child caregivers has stopped working, at least temporarily, to care for an aging parent, an impact of more than $300,000 in lost income, significantly affecting her financial health immediately, with tremendous impact for the future due to halted contributions to retirement portfolio and Social Security. The monetary impact to U.S. businesses through lost productivity is as much as $33 billion per year.”
Initially, Hall worked with faculty and staff at Lenoir-Rhyne to provide ACAP programs. Service was extended to the community in 2012 and became a part of the services provided by the Women’s Resource Center in Hickory.
The response during the first year was tremendous: Attendance grew from eight to 50 in the first year. Participant responses to a survey shows that most felt more confident, more balanced between work and home and less anxious as a result of their participation in the ACAP program.
Recent changes in focus at the Women’s Resource Center, included the separation of the ACAP program into an independent body. Plus, ACAP needed more meeting space.
Participants were realizing the need for more than a support group. The possibilities grew when Jane Everson became a strategist as well as a participant in ACAP. Her aging parents were geographically distant, and when her father died earlier this year, she became her mother’s main support.
In the course of Hall’s caring for her mother, she met Kathy Foster, who would complete the team as director of marketing and sales. Foster brings 25 years of experience in nursing homes and assisted living communities with marketing expertise.
After considering the limitations of establishing a nonprofit, the three women decided instead to form a partnership and created ACAPcommunity.
Everson announced the new business with the launch of the ACAP website, acapcommunity.com and presence on Facebook as ACAP Community.
While Everson becomes the new director of training and development, Hall takes the title director of operations. The provide seminars primarily developed for retirement communities in western North Carolina.
Hall said they know of no other such organizations in the United States to use as models. Based on their experience, a 24-month curriculum is being developed, with an accompanying guide. Programs are developed first for the Hickory area and then may be used as a model for other locations.
ACAP’s monthly meeting location is Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Hickory. Participants are not only adult children, but also siblings, spouses, in-laws, owners of senior services businesses. Even more, professionals who provide legal, financial, medical, faith and counseling for seniors are joining.
New participants are always welcome to attend the monthly meetings.
This month’s program, to be held Sept. 24, is on “Avoiding Scams: Tips for Seniors and Their Families” presented by Lt. Vidal Sipe, Commander of Community Services PACT, who is an expert in crime prevention. Seniors are especially vulnerable to financial and property crimes as well as abuse.
Next month, a program titled, “It’s All About You!” is being offered as a one-day wellness retreat for caregivers. This will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 14 and will include yoga and a labyrinth meditation. The cost is $75.
Also in October, Meghan Lawton of the Western N.C. Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and Mary Mitchell, Family Caregiver Support Specialist will present a program on “Home for the Holidays: What to Look For When Visiting Mom and Dad … and Dealing with Caregiver Holiday Stress.” Look for “Laughter is the Best Medicine!” in November. Registration can be made by phone 877-599-2227 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, ACAP partners are members of SIR, Senior Information Resources, in Hickory.
Betty Stone is a freelance writer. Have a story for Betty? Email her at email@example.com.
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