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October 26, 2000

Survey Goes to Source to
Determine How to Help Caregivers

Solutions -- not disease or health care costs -- are what interest caregivers of elderly friends or relatives, based on a survey conducted by the gerontology program at California State University, Sacramento.

More than 90 baby boomer and older adult caregivers from five Sacramento-area counties ranked the issues that mattered most for them in their efforts to care for a senior. Nearly 25 percent of households are involved in caregiving for older persons according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.

"No one knew what caregivers in the Sacramento area want because no one had ever bothered to ask them," says Cheryl Osborne, director of the University's gerontology program. "We make assumptions that we know what they need. But in this project, we are actually planning the content of our programming and outreach based on the answers we get in our survey."

About 85 percent of all home care is provided by family and friends according to the General Accounting Office. More than13 million Americans have a parent or spouse who is elderly and disabled and have the potential responsibility for their care.

The survey results will determine the topics for a series of 28 informational radio spots to be broadcast on Capital Public Radio. The spots air on the first Monday of the month. They also will be used to develop a longevity fair in the spring and contribute to an addition of a resource page on the CSUS gerontology website.

Osborne says the survey respondents, who were nearly 80 percent female and ranged in age from 35 to over 85, wanted to hear about positive outcomes instead of focus on illness. Forty-seven percent wanted information on aging well, twice as many as were interested in learning about disease.

And the desire for wellness information was not just in relation to the persons they are caring for, but for the caregivers themselves. They wanted to know how to keep themselves healthy while involved in caregiving responsibilities.

They also weren't as concerned about rising health care costs as the researchers had expected. Only 24 percent thought that information about financial assistance was important. "That surprised me," says Sheri Peifer, the gerontology graduate student who oversaw the survey. Other findings of note:

More than half the survey respondents said they were interested in resources, places or people they could turn to for guidance in their caregiving efforts. They wanted one-stop information and referral centers for information on topics like senior housing options, private care agencies, legal referrals, respite care and socialization.

Forty-nine percent wanted more information about the specifics of how to be a caregiver.

Other topics of interest were support groups (35 percent), costs of health care (33 percent), educating young adults about aging (27 percent) and housing options (22 percent). Funding for the survey, news stories, longevity fair and the website come from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant.

More information is available by calling Osborne at (916) 278-7281.


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