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Stressful Times for Kentucky Caregivers

Charles Williams

As we head into the holiday season, there can be added stress, especially for thousands of Kentuckians caring for a loved one.

For the past four years, Charles Williams of LaGrange has cared for his Aunt Cookie, who turns 90 later this month, and Uncle Raymond, who passed away in February. Williams said he handles their finances and routinely makes the 10-hour drive to their home in Virginia.

"I do it because I love them," he said. "I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for them."

November is National Family Caregivers Month. According to AARP, Kentucky's 735,000 family caregivers provide an estimated 704 million hours of unpaid care and save the state more than $7 billion a year.

Williams said his aunt and uncle, who didn't have children of their own, asked him in the mid-1990s to care for them when they got older - paying their bills and making sure they're in a safe environment. Williams said it was tough when he had to move them to an assisted-living facility and, eventually, a nursing home.

"Oh good Lord, oh good Lord. You don't feel good about it, which I guess is a part of the stress - you don't want to do it," he said. "Your rational mind trumps your emotional mind."

Kentucky lawmakers have directed their research arm to deliver recommendations by next month on how to enhance support and services for caregivers.

State lawmakers can do more to help, said Bob Palombo, a caregiver for his mother and also president of AARP North Carolina. He said holidays can be particularly stressful for caregivers as they juggle work and family obligations, and AARP is doing what it can to reach out to them.

"Caregivers don't always ask for help," he said. "They do it because it's a service to their parent or relative, and they don't like to seek help in all cases. And we need to be able to provide the information and the resources for them."

AARP this month launched a campaign and website for family caregivers to share their stories and find information. That website is: http://AARP.org/iheartcaregivers

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