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RESEARCHERS WORKING TO HELP
CAREGIVERS FIND SECURITY

By Selena Stevens

 

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"It is hard enough discussing these sensitive care issues and then having to bring in the financial questions. A lot of people don't know how to do that. They aren't comfortable with it, so they don't talk about it. In the long run, everyone suffers because they couldn't talk."

--Celia Hayhoe,
professor of family studies,
UK College of Human
Environmental Sciences

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Nov. 21, 2001 (Lexington, Ky.) -- When an elderly family member becomes ill, others in the family often pitch in to help with living arrangements, medical needs and bills, but inevitably one family or person bares a majority of the burden. In the process of becoming the caregiver, that person often loses focus on their own future and retirement planning. A University of Kentucky professor is beginning a new study she hopes will help protect the caregiver's financial future.

Celia Hayhoe, professor of family studies in UK's College of Human Environmental Sciences, found herself in that sandwich generation, trying to provide for herself and her children while caring for an ailing mother and grandmother.

"It is hard enough discussing these sensitive care issues and then having to bring in the financial questions," she said. "A lot of people donít know how to do that. They aren't comfortable with it, so they donít talk about it. In the long run, everyone suffers because they couldn't talk."

The National Endowment for Financial Education has awarded Hayhoe $108,637 toward her study on caring for caregivers. She plans to create a video, booklet and CD that can be used by individuals and groups to teach caregivers how to address the many sensitive subjects on their horizons.

The target group will be those people who are in the process of becoming caregivers or have become so in the last 12 months. Research and focus groups will help her discover what information caregivers need and the best way to get it to them.

Previous research has found that only 40 percent of people thought a lot about retirement and were working with a plan they thought would meet their needs. Seventy-seven percent said they felt they were saving too little and poorly prepared for their own retirement.

Early results of Hayhoeís recent studies are suggesting that the caregiving experience brings heightened awareness about the need of oneís own retirement and is a time in which many caregivers need exposure to and guidance toward retirement planning activities and information.

"The focus is helping caregivers protect their own retirement," she said. "You shouldn't have to reduce yourself to care for a loved one. What I hope to show is how you can protect your own benefits as you provide this care."

The materials resulting from Hayhoe's work will be distributed nationally through the National Endowment for Financial Education. UK Elder Care and the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging also are supporting her work financially and with research resources.


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