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Caregiving Emerges from the Shadows

“There are four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”
Rosalynn Carter

Eight years ago I created a very compelling presentation for a major pharmaceutical company on caregiving. Their goal was to find a way to connect with consumers 40+ so they had a platform for talking about their brands. At that point in time web sites were new,”content” wasn’t part of our everyday conversation, and no one really identified with the moniker “caregiver.” In short the pharma company decided that caregiving didn’t have enough relevance with consumers. I truly believed the company who could crack the code on supporting caregivers and become their trusted source of information would own Boomer consumer loyalty for years to come. And I still do.

While still working for Age Wave Impact, we worked with two of the first caregiving web sites—one a support site for family caregivers, the other a resource site for adult children trying to find services for elderly parents. Both had great funding, strong entrepreneurial leadership, and of course, the guidance of a smart agency. Yet both failed. While some of this was blamed on the dot.com bust, I always believed these were solutions provided long before the problem was widely recognized. MetLife’s Mature Market Institute has done some of the most comprehensive studies on the issue of the family caregiver—from its impact on employers to the toll it takes on the family structure. (The MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs, October 2009). In the last nine months caregiving has emerged as a leading concern for Boomers. It is as though the economic downturn has amplified the issues for the adult children who are both providing care for their elderly parents, who may have limited financial options, and also taking their children back home because of the lack of jobs for new graduates. Our recent research revealed that more children are returning home than leaving the nest—for the first time in history. Today there are more than 65 million unpaid caregivers in the United States.

This pressure—like so many Boomer lifestages—creates ripe opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors in the caregiving space. And recently I am seeing a convergence of activity around the topic. During the recent American Society on Aging Conference and the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit, caregiving was the hot topic of presentations, workshops and new products showcased in the exhibit hall. Many are focused on tools to help caregivers get the resources they need to manage through the experience. Take a look at the new services offered by Silver Planet. Others seek to help organize the details of caring for loved one. Check out Strength for Caring, Caring.com, and the Caregiver Journal. Many are providing devices and services that help elderly people stay at home longer with a better quality of life while assuring caregivers of their safety and well–being. Look at GrandCARE and WellCore.

The time for supporting caregivers is NOW. Read Gail Sheehy’s provocative article in the May/June issue of AARP The Magazine (www.aarpmagazine.org) titled, “The Secret Caregivers.” The article talks about men who are providing care—more than 22 million—and who do so in secret. Gail, who led a generation of Boomers with her book Passages, has an exciting new book coming out in May titled Passages in Caregiving.

Stay tuned for details of the book’s launch from Mary Furlong and Associates.

Comments

  1. Ms. Bitter, thanks for very thought provoking post. Your comments track very closely with my puzzlement on caregiving issues over the past four years.

    Almost daily I talk with baby boomers who own businesses who are experiencing stress because of their role as a caregiver. Often the caregiving role stress is creeping into their ability to perform their business functions effectively.

    About three years ago, I visited some local caregiving support groups organized by the local Area Agency On Aging. I found numerous people there facing challenges on how to effectively deal with the stress of what they considered to be a labor of love, caregiving.

    Like you, I wondered who could make a business out of solving this problem. Having many friends who are owners of independent community pharmacies, I began talking with them about the problem.

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