Caregivers feeling great emotional stress, says AARP survey – Spectrum News

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sara Goldhawk has had a hand in pottery since 1998, and finds it relaxing and therapeutic.
"All hands on deck focus. It let’s you ignore all your other problems while you’re doing it," said Goldhawk.
Goldhawk is a full-time primary caregiver for her 88-year-old dad who has Alzheimer’s. Watching his every move and handling random changes in behavior can be tough for her and her siblings, as he has good days and bad.
"It’s very stressful. But there are times, when your limits are tested dramatically. He has a disease where he can’t communicate. He’s struggling to let me know how he’s feeling. And I have to read the signs," she said.
A recent AARP state survey shows a majority of caregivers feel the responsibility is causing emotional stress. And the state does not provide enough financial support or care, as well as help the 16,000 people wait-listed for services.
"We want the state to help these family caregivers. If we don’t keep them in place, we’re going to have so many more people on Medicaid and in institutions across New York State because they couldn’t remain in their own homes," said Beth Finkel, the AARP NYS director.
Goldhawk, who also finds solace in a good Sudoku puzzle, didn’t take the survey but finds herself in the majority.
"Highly agree, highly agree. I don’t think it is enough. Yes government needs to take care of their seniors," she said.
State leaders say with more than 4 million caregivers, many are not aware of the countless resources available until they’re in crisis and need them.
"Am I surprised by the survey, absolutely not. People take it upon themselves to take care of their lived ones and as somebody’s needs change, either over time, or due to an incident, like a fall or a stroke, those tasks become more intense," said Greg Olsen, the director of the state Office for the Aging.
Goldhawk picks up her dad from daycare and sets him up with his new gadget board. The kitchen table is already clear of her pottery supplies until next time.
"You need to find something that’s yours. And it just gives you a chance to mentally disappear from your role as caregiver. You need to take that break, not thinking 24/7 about my caregiving," she said.
AARP is also looking to the state to allocate $51 million in this year’s state budget for seniors, who the organization says contribute billions of dollars to the state economy.

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