It’s no secret that family caregivers are a large but unsung segment of the national population, with over 40 million Americans currently taking care of family members and loved ones, and that number is only expected to grow as the baby boomer generation continues to age. But did you know that 150,000 unpaid family caregivers in San Diego County are taking care of ill, impaired, or frail loved ones, according to county estimates? Worse, women, representing 82 percent of all caregivers, land in the Sandwich Generation when those in their 40s and 50s who are still working are also raising children. Fortunately, San Diego residents have access to resources ranging from non-profit support groups, to homecare agencies, to a newly launched initiative from the San Diego Board of Supervisors that’s targeting Alzheimer’s disease.Three generations

One of the resources that available to San Diego caregivers is the Southern Caregiver Resource Center, located in Kearny Mesa. The resource center offers a wide array of services and support to San Diego or Imperial County residents who need assistance caring for an adult loved one with a chronic or disabling condition. Specifically, their mission reads, “[A] client must be assisting/caring for an adult with a cognitive impairing condition that occurred after the age of 18 (for example: dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease), or someone age 60 years and older in need of assistance with daily living activities.” After conferring with a Center consultant, a caregiver seeking help can receive counseling, respite care, legal and financial resources, and connections to the other San Diego agencies that offer services to caregivers. The SCRC also offers support groups all around the county for the 30,000 caregivers it serves, as well as education on a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Traumatic Brain Injury, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.

For those who want to age in place, the SCRC can connect you to an organization that offers free or low-cost modifications to the home that make senior living safer and smoother. Access to the affordable installation of grab bars, hand rails, and handheld shower heads in the bathroom and smoke detectors in the rest of the residence can make caregiving and aging in place in San Diego easier and safer.

Alzheimer’s disease is the third leading cause of death in San Diego county, and it places one of the heaviest burdens on San Diego’s caregivers. As we mentioned in our post on the Casa Companion Homecare Solutions blog on August 25th, the San Diego Board of Supervisor’s announced The Alzheimer Project in May 2014 to tackle the Alzheimer’s epidemic in San Diego County. On December 7, 2014, the supervisors heard the recommendations the project members developed over the last several months.

The Alzheimer’s Project: A Call To Arms will target four elements of dementia care in San Diego County: caregiving, a cure, clinical trials, and public awareness in an attempt to plan for the future care of the estimate 100,000 residents who will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in 2030. For caregivers, the Project offers concerted research efforts for future benefit, as well as improved services today for patients and families. The specific recommendations produced by the group include:

• Launching a San Diego-based fundraising campaign to spur innovation and drug discovery;
• Producing countywide standards for screening, diagnosis and management of Alzheimer’s and dementia;
• Improving depth and participation in clinical trials and research;
• Increased training for those who work with Alzheimer’s patients;
• Broadening access to services, respite care and support for caregivers and families; and
• Bolstering the sheriff’s “Take Me Home” program by increasing access to the GPS devices that help find patients who wander off.

The toll that caregiving can take on caregivers is well known, and the working caregivers who are part of the Sandwich Generation are in a particularly tough situation. Caring for parents or older relatives while working and raising children makes a strong support network especially important, and San Diego is building a strong network for its residents. Whether the right resource is a home care companion, respite care, or a support group, or all three, San Diego is the right place for caregivers.