Bob Roth

With the High Holidays nearly upon us, many of us are preparing for the traditions of these Days of Awe, and at the same time some of us are providing care for an aging loved one as family caregivers. This year family caregivers are contemplating the difficulties of attending worship services and attending family gatherings while also protecting and keeping their loved ones safe from the coronavirus pandemic, especially with the uptick in cases caused by the new delta variant.

Family caregiving is at the foundation of our family’s home care agency’s beginning. My family and I created Cypress HomeCare Solutions to care for other people’s moms and dads in the same way we had learned to care for our own mom. Now, 27 years after Cypress’s founding, there has never been a more important time to honor, respect and assist these unsung heroes who are making incredible sacrifices in their lives to care for the ones they love.

The family caregivers are the backbone of our country’s caregiving core. Many of us remember that back in 2011 the first of the baby boomers began turning 65 at a clip of 10,000 a day and now, in just a little more than four years, they will begin turning 80.

There is nothing magical about 80, except that the number of comorbidities for these individuals has increased to a point where many struggle to be able to live alone in the comfort of their own home. Staying independent is the goal for our seniors, and to do that people have to be able to perform these essential acts of daily living.

These include six essential skills:

Bathing and showering: the ability to bathe self and maintain dental, hair, and nail hygiene.

Continence: having complete control of bowels and bladder.

Dressing: the ability to select appropriate clothes and outerwear, and to dress independently.

Mobility: being able to walk or transfer from one place to another, specifically in and out of a bed or chair.

Feeding (excluding meal preparation): the ability to get food from plate to mouth, and to chew and swallow.

Toileting: the ability to get on and off the toilet and clean oneself without assistance.

According to a 2020 survey by AARP, more than 50 million Americans now serve as unpaid caregivers for adult family members or friends and it’s only going to continue to grow. Many of these family caregivers are struggling as well, sacrificing their own health and well-being to assist their loved ones for years on end. Consistent, skilled and affordable care is now in short supply — and getting shorter — and the family caregivers are shouldering an increasingly unsustainable burden without assistance.

The challenges centered around affordability and workforce are not just a problem in the United States; many countries are facing this same issue. Japan has the world’s oldest population. Japanese lawmakers passed a long-term care insurance program in 1997. The U.S. Congress seems unlikely to follow suit any time soon.

But there is hope. Something we should all be watching is the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust program, which was passed by Washington’s state legislature and signed into law in 2019 by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The following are the bill’s key provisions:

Starting January 1, 2022, a 0.58% premium assessment will be imposed on all Washington employee wages.

Starting January 1, 2025, proceeds of this premium assessment will be used to provide long-term services and supports benefits.

For all the family caregivers out there, please know that you are not alone. At this year’s High Holiday services and family get-togethers, take inventory of your loved ones who are performing these selfless acts and check in with them to make sure that they are remembering to take care of themselves.

If you see a loved one in the role of a family caregiver, offer to “share the care.” By offering to share the care you will be enabling the family caregiver to get the respite they need so that they can be a better caregiver to their care recipient. If they don’t accept your offer, either insist or just do it. JN

Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.