As one who works in elder care, it is indeed my privilege to write to commend the good work of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell. He has taken the reins of the Office on Aging in South Carolina and run with it with fierceness and compassion.
He is making a huge difference for older adults, and he is positioned to garner a lot of attention for the serious state of affairs for seniors. Some of us kid Glenn that he is “a voice crying in the wilderness” but in truth, the lieutenant governor’s message is resonating with private citizens and private and public agencies across the state.
The efforts of the lieutenant governor and the many agencies, public and private, devoted to helping seniors in South Carolina, are indispensable in the lives of people struggling with illness, disability and the challenges that often accompany aging.
The spectrum of tasks that unpaid caregivers undertake is truly vast. Some, such as grocery shopping and cooking, are familiar to us all. Giving injections, changing bandages, calming an agitated parent suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or helping a disabled partner get from the bed to the bathroom can be far more daunting.
But, through countless unheralded contributions like these, family caregivers allow millions of older or disabled Americans to continue to live as independently as possible at home.
As the very embodiment of love and commitment to others, caregiving is one of the most worthwhile jobs one may ever undertake. However, it can cause undeniable strain. On average, family caregivers begin to provide care in their late 40s depending on the chronic conditions an elderly person must manage.
Roughly, three out of five family caregivers are women. And, many feel unbearably squeezed between the demands of caregiving, the needs of their families, and the pressures of work. It’s no wonder—the average caregiver spends about 20 hours per week helping a loved one, and almost one in five caregivers reports spending more than 40 hours a week.
Allow me to restate what the lieutenant governor wrote in a July 25 column: “What it all boils down to is this: Providing care for our seniors and our exploding senior population will require that we do things differently. ... Making the aging network efficient and expanding its capacity to care for up to two million seniors and vulnerable adults over the next 15 years is not going to be easy and it certainly will not happen overnight. Let’s approach this challenge as a team. We have a chance to make a big difference and can accomplish far more if we work together.”
As a member of the boomer generation, I want to be a part of the solutions to which Glenn refers.
I hope all will find it in their hearts to contribute their time, talents and resources to helping seniors age successfully, and to age in place where they are most secure and comfortable: in their own homes.
Call Glenn and let him know you are on his “Seniors Team.”
Sheryl W. O’Neal