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August 23, 2012 at 16:48 PM EDT
Stress of primary caregiver role for a family member now affecting 30 percent of U.S. adults - senior communities building in support to help residents cope

GERMANTOWN, Md., Aug. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Asbury is increasing support services for resident caregivers in its continuing care retirement communities, with some groups open to family members or the public, as the number of caregivers continues to balloon with the aging population. Spouses are hit especially hard with stress, burnout and the impact on their own physical health, as well as finances and changing dynamics in family relationships. Men, particularly, struggle as roles are reversed, often having to learn new skills such as cooking for a wife who previously did all the cooking.

Although statistics range widely in estimates of the number of informal caregivers in the U.S., approximately 30 percent of U.S. adults are providing some kind of assistance to a loved one, with 24 percent of adults providing care for an adult, according to a July 2012 Family Caregivers Online report by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the California Healthcare Foundation (http://bit.ly/ROS800).

"Residents told us of the importance of being able to step back from caregiving for a short period of time to gather with others in similar situations," said Rev. Dr. Martha Brown, director of pastoral care and counseling at Asbury Methodist Village, a continuing care retirement community in Gaithersburg, Md., which offers a monthly Caregivers Support Group. "This affords the opportunity for receiving encouragement and sharing responses to challenges that are common among the caregivers and their families who may attend the group."

That is often the case in Asbury's retirement communities, where some couples must find one spouse may require a move from independent living to assisted living or skilled nursing or memory support.

Resident Leroy Erickson, 83, at Asbury's Bethany Village, a continuing care retirement community in Mechanicsburg, Pa., became the caregiver after his wife, Marianne, 79, was diagnosed with memory loss. "Early on, I could take care of her, but eventually it got to the point where I could no longer handle it. I think it's especially hard for men. I had to learn new skills, and I'm not much of a cook," he explained. "Marianne moved into assisted living where they could do a lot of things better than I could and then into skilled nursing. But yet I'm still her advocate and see her every day." He continues to live independently and is a regular attendee at the Family Support Group affiliated with the Alzheimer's Association (open to the public), as well as another community support group.

At Asbury's Inverness Village, a Life Care retirement community in Tulsa, Okla., Steven Walkingstick, associate executive director, has been facilitating the monthly Men's Caregiver Support Group for three years. "We have a small tight-knit group, and almost every attendee is caring for a spouse with Alzheimer's," he said. "Their most pressing needs are, 'Where do I turn if I get burned out? How will I know when the time is right to move my spouse to the Health Center (skilled nursing)?' Aside from that, they seek out as much clinical information about the disease process as possible and what to expect."

Don Ebbs, 78, has been an Inverness Village resident for eight years, and his wife, Carol, 83, has been in skilled nursing there for two years. He lives independently in their apartment but spends most of his time with her. He started going to the Men's Caregiver Support Group even before Carol moved to skilled nursing. "It was helpful, because it gives you an opportunity to hear other people who have problems like you've experienced or will experience," said Ebbs.

To view a Supporting Memory Loss video of Bethany Village resident Leroy Erickson discussing how the community has supported his caregiving efforts for his wife, click on http://www.bethanyvillage.org/health_services/.

To view a video of an Asbury Methodist Village resident and caregiver, whose husband had a stroke two weeks before they were to move to Asbury, click on The Aurora Sevilla Story at http://asburymethodistvillage.org/health_services/.

Asbury provides management and support services for a system of continuing care retirement communities for older adults. Asbury is ranked by the LeadingAge and Ziegler Capital Markets Group's AZ 100 as the 15th largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organization in the country.   


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