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Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Coming "Sandwich Generation" Battles

When Gloria G. Alfonso, 74, retired in her late 60s, she expected to experience rest and relaxation. But when her mother, now 92, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago, she took on the role as her mother’s caregiver. 


“My life completely changed,” Alfonso says. “Sometimes I wake up as much as 10 times in the night because she needs something or because I am worried about her.” 


Alfonso is just one of the estimated 1.7 million caregivers in South Florida. Being a caregiver can be classified as anything as simple as taking a loved one to weekly doctor’s appointments to having a parent move in with the family full-time. One growing subset of the caregiver population has been called the “Sandwich Generation” because caregivers are often sandwiched between providing care for aging parents and their own children. 


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For Alfonso, being a caregiver means offering round-the-clock support to her mother, who can go through periods of recognizing Alfonso and other family members coupled with times of confusion and fear.

As the disease process is understandably challenging for Alfonso, a friend recommended attending the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, a free monthly service offered by United HomeCare, a Miami-based not-for-profit home health and community care organization. On the first Wednesday of every month from 1 to 2:30 p.m., Alfonso says she attends the support group, where participants share concerns, tips and stories with each other. 


“The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group has been wonderful,” Alfonso says. “Many times I believe it is the only way I have survived through this situation.”


A Growing Need


While many caregivers help without question, it often is at a strain to themselves. That’s why United HomeCare offers not only the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group that Alfonso attends, but also a larger Caregiver Resource Center. The Center is the first of its kind in Miami and offers programs including counseling, a stress management support group and yoga classes, among other activities. The center also acts as a centralized network for education, information and referrals to needed community services.


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“Caregivers are so consumed with their loved one, they often neglect their own health and self-care,” says Blanca Ceballos, Manager of the Caregiver Resource Center and Volunteer Department at United HomeCare. “That’s why we offer programs to provide them with information, educational materials and events where they can come and take a relaxing break.” 


Another aspect of service United HomeCare provides is its Working Caregiver Assistance Program, which offers education for employers on what employees may be going through as caregivers. The estimated cost to employers for missed days of work and other costs related to caregiving are $17.1 billion annually. United HomeCare offers Lunch & Learn programs at the worksite and health fairs that can help companies make adjustments that reduce lost productivity, yet assist caregivers in their responsibilities. 


Financial Implications


In addition to the emotional and physical toll caregiving can have on a family, caregiving can be costly and an unexpected expense.  


“You’ve worked all your life to grow your assets, but health insurance does not typically provide for custodial care,” says Marc Rheingold, owner of Marc Rheingold & Associates, Inc. an independent financial and employee benefits firm in Weston. “There are options available where you as a caregiver can ensure your parents are cared for, and that you’re prepared should you require long-term care for any reason.” 


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If you are in a position where you may be caring for aging loved ones in the future, Rheingold suggests sitting down with a financial and insurance planner to discuss insurance policy options that can lessen the long-term financial constraints associated with caregiving. 


One emerging option is the long-term care, asset-based policy, which is a life insurance policy that also covers long-term care needs. While the initial contribution may represent an up-front investment, many like that the premium is not lost should the owner not require long-term care, Rheingold says. Such policies have increased by 79 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. 


Maintaining Perspective


Alfonso says she tells other caregivers to take advantage of programs designed to help whenever possible. Through programs like the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, she has found a way to cope. 


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“Alzheimer’s disease makes my family feel like we lost my mother before we really lost her,” Alfonso says. “It can be heartbreaking because the person changes so much. I would just encourage caregivers to remember there is a place inside each loved one where they remember us and love us.” 


Help Is Here


To learn more about United HomeCare and its Caregiver Resource Center, visit UnitedHomeCare.com, call (305) 716-0710 or visit the center at 8400 NW 33rd St., Fourth Floor, Miami, FL 33122. The Caregiver Resource Center is open Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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For ways you can protect your financial assets as a caregiver, contact Marc Rheingold & Associates, Inc. at (954) 217-3066. Rheingold’s offices are located at 1840 Main Street, Suite 202, Weston, FL 33326 or you can learn more by visiting www.marcrheingold.com


This article was written by Rachel Nall exclusively for Amplification, Inc. Check out the YouTube Channel.