Caregivers report emphasizes need for information, respite in Santa Clara County

(BCN) — An increasing number of Santa Clara County residents are acting as caregivers for adult family members, a trend that is projected to increase throughout the decade.

What those caregivers and professional caregivers who work directly with patients need most is information and respite, according to a report by the county’s Department of Aging and Adult Services that was commissioned last year and presented to the county Board of Supervisors during its regular meeting Tuesday.

The report outlined several top needs for caregivers and goals the county could pursue to provide more resources and support to the roughly 217,000 people currently acting as caregivers in the county, 177,000 of whom are volunteers such as friends, neighbors and family, and another 40,000 of whom are health care professionals known as direct-care workers.

By 2030, an estimated 20 percent of Santa Clara County residents will be over the age of 65, according to state projections.

Pressed by Supervisor Joe Simitian for two top priorities, Department of Aging and Adult Services representative Diana Miller and the report’s author, Dr. Monique Parrish of consultant LifeCourse Strategies, agreed that creating a centralized information hub that could connect people with referrals and information about caregiving resources, along with creating options for respite for caregivers, were the most urgent.

“When you go into the hospital with your loved one, and your loved one has suffered some incident that’s requiring long-term care, you’re maybe, fortunately, given a list of resources, you start out absolutely overwhelmed about what to do,” said Parrish.

The county could start by increasing its training and information provided by existing resources like 211 and the local nonprofit Sourcewise, the report said.

In addition to prioritizing a centralized information hub, the county plans to work with health and hospital systems to increase caregiver training, educate county residents about family leave benefits, and increase awareness of caregiving surveys, such as the California Health Interview Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey.

Respite, or respite care, which is temporary care that can provide a break for primary caregivers, will require creating more affordable options for care both in and out of the home. Currently, Medicare only covers respite care involving hospice care, and only helps cover up to five consecutive days in those cases, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Professional, direct-care providers reported the need for a living wage, childcare support, and steady hours as some of their top concerns, along with training and career advancement and safe working conditions.

The county plans to collaborate with the state’s Department of Aging and other counties to establish a career ladder for such workers to help address that concern, Miller said.

A report on the progress of the initiatives will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in April.

Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc.

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