By November 14, 2019 Read More →

Opinion: November is National Family Caregivers Month

Mon Health System leaders note the special role of caregivers

By Mark Gillam, Avah Stalnaker and Melissa Lockwood

The President’s recent proclamation to recognize and honor family caregivers throughout the month of November was welcomed by all of us at Mon Health System. 

As we treat patients at our facilities in Morgantown, Weston, Kingwood and Elkins, we know the invaluable roles family caregivers play in our healthcare continuum. Many of us who work in north central West Virginia’s Mon Health System also serve as caregivers to our families, friends and neighbors.

A renewed priority within the Mon Health System is a commitment of physicians, nurses, allied health personnel, social workers, case managers and administrators to make sure every patient released from our care clearly understands discharge guidance and prescription medication needs as well as the timing of follow up check-ins. This has greatly helped patients, family members and caregivers understand their respective roles in the health and well-being of those requiring caregiving. It has significantly reduced hospital readmissions and saved thousands of dollars but more importantly, improved the lives of those who are recovering or suffering from chronic illness.

Declaring November as National Family Caregiver Month, the President’s words ring true:

“Caregivers help their family members live fulfilling lives by providing vital assistance in domestic, financial, and medical affairs. The responsibility of serving and supporting another person can be challenging, and the strength and compassion exhibited by caregivers is one of the greatest manifestations of genuine love we witness in this world. Their unrelenting support enables family members to live with dignity.”

The aging population is driving a growing demand for family caregivers – a trend that is expected to continue through the next several decades and beyond.

The statistics from Seniorlink’s The State of Caregiving 2018 are staggering. Between 2000 and 2016, nearly all counties (95.2%) across the U.S. experienced an increase in median age, with 56 counties having an increase in median age of 10 or more years. This trend is driven by a longer life expectancy. The life expectancy of West Virginians is75.4 years, and those who are disabled, suffer from chronic conditions or require assistance as they age may need family caregivers to lend a hand.

Seniorlink also reports that as the Baby Boom generation ages, 10,000 people turn 65 daily. For the first time in U.S. history, there are more than 50 million seniors. This trend is expected to continue until 2029, when the youngest Baby Boomers will turn 65 years old. A third of those older than 65 live alone, and half of the “oldest old” — those beyond 85 — are on their own at this late life stage.

The Caregiver Action Network reports that 66% of family caregivers nationwide are women. More than 37% have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them. 1.4 million children ages 8 to 18 provide care for an adult relative; 72% are caring for a parent or grandparent; and 64% live in the same household as their care recipient.

The proclamation’s call to action is one we are proud to observe: “Selfless Americans across our country consistently dedicate themselves and their resources to providing ailing and aging loved ones with the care and support they need to live in their own homes and communities. Throughout National Family Caregivers Month, we pause to recognize the men and women who tirelessly work to improve the quality of life for Americans in need of care.”

— Mark Gilliam is the Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Information Officer at Mon Health Medical Center in Morgantown.

— Avah Stalnaker is the CEO of Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital in Weston.

— Melissa Lockwood is the CEO of Preston Memorial Hospital in Kingwood.

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