In the United States today, about 80 percent of older adults have a chronic illness such as hypertension or diabetes. Thanks to advances in medical care, people with a chronic illness often can manage the illness at home and not need a nursing home or assisted living.

Many will, however, need a caregiver. Such caregiving most often is provided by family members and may require a few hours a week or month initially and increase as the illness progresses.

The April Extension Knowledge At Noon program offers more information on the issues involved in family caregiving. Dr Gayle Doll of the Kansas State University Center on Aging will speak on "Caring for Aging Parents" from 12:05 to 12:55 p.m. Thursday at the Finney County Public Library. There is no charge for this program from the Finney County Extension Office, and pre-registration is not necessary. Bring a lunch if you wish; coffee and iced tea will be provided.

Doll says providing care and support for aging relatives often starts slowly running errands and helping to shop or manage legal and financial affairs. It often escalates into more complex or more intimate tasks as the health of the elder declines.

The National Family Caregivers Association reports that in Kansas, caregivers provide about 286 million hours of care annually, which translates into an equivalent economic value of $2.8 billion. That figure, however, does not include the personal cost to the caregiver.

Family caregivers, about 60 percent of whom are women, often have to take time off from work. In some cases, they may have to quit their job. The cost of the lost wages, benefits and potential retirement savings add up. One study states that a caregiver can lose more than $650,000 in wages, Social Security benefits and pensions during the course of a family caregiving "career."

Caregiving also adds stress for the caregiver and his or her family. About 40 percent of the women who serve as caregivers still are raising their own children.

Caregiving experiences are just as unique as the people involved. While some people may readily identify themselves as family caregivers, others are more reluctant and uncertain how to take on such a challenging task. The Extension Knowledge at Noon program will provide helpful information on family caregiving and caring for aging parents.

Rosalyn Carter said it best: "There are only four kinds of people in the world those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers."

Join us for the Extension Knowledge at Noon program on Thursday to learn more.

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