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For Caregivers, It’s a Family

For Caregivers, It’s a Family
A yoga course is held at the 2008 Caring for the Caregiver Conference in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center co-hosted the ninth annual Caring for the Caregiver Conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles Nov. 1.

The Caregiver Center, which is part of the research and services arm of the USC Davis School of Gerontology, provides support to family caregivers of older adults in frail condition and those living with brain impairments in Los Angeles County.

With a theme of “It’s a Family Affair,” the celebration recognized local caregivers and their support networks, and it also marked the beginning of National Family Caregivers Month.

Fifty million family caregivers around the country provide nearly 80 percent of long-term care. On a daily or on an intermittent basis, these individuals supply emotional, financial, nursing, social, homemaking and other services worth approximately $306 billion per year. Their labor often extends for more than 40 hours a week, according to a recent national survey by Johns Hopkins University of more than 1,100 caregivers. Yet less than five percent of those questioned used support groups or respite care in which temporary coverage is provided for the caregiver.

In the Los Angeles area, Caregiver Center staffers increased outreach efforts to improve awareness of their services in preparation for the day’s event and were pleased with the turnout.

“We saw our highest attendance to date,” said Emanuel Alvarez, program specialist for the USC-based center. “Over 500 family caregivers attended the conference.”

After a performance by jazz singer Phyllis Chang, keynote speaker Laura Trejo, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Aging and a USC Davis School alumna, discussed her experiences as a caregiver.

“Caregiving need not feel like a lonely journey. It should be shared with family, friends and professionals,” she said. Trejo and her sisters shared the responsibilities of caring for their mother and grandmother.

Attendees were invited to attend a series of educational workshops on subjects such as Medi-Cal, how to hire and train in-home help, long-term financial planning, fall prevention, caregiver fitness and emergency preparedness.

“The family caregivers that attended were a diverse group of people of all ages caring for family members with a range of issues,” said Shawn Herz, director of program development at the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center. “Many attendees became emotional in expressing their gratitude for being able to attend and let us know it was a powerful experience that left them hopeful and empowered.”

The event was co-sponsored by the EduCare consortium.

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