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Mature Focus: Aug. 7

By: Lisa Russell


Sandwiched at work

In addition to their full-time jobs, about a quarter of American adults now care for an elderly family member on an unpaid basis, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This number is only expected to rise as more people live into their 80s and beyond, and many seniors choose to “age in place” in their homes rather than entering nursing homes or other care facilities.

Many of those “informal” caregivers experience significant work disruptions as a result. However, they often don’t receive support from their employers, either because it is not offered or because they are hesitant to use it, according to a recent study.

As the population ages, more and more American workers are providing care for elderly parents, which is increasingly creating needs for support from their employers.

Researchers from Baylor University, Louisiana State University and the University of Iowa analyzed data from about 650 people who described themselves as informal caregivers. Nearly three-fourths of those interviewed said they experience some degree of work interruption due to their caregiving responsibilities, ranging from mild effects such as having to adjust their work hours to more severe ones … like needing to move from full-time to part-time status, taking a leave of absence or even opting for early retirement.

More than half of people in the study who served as caregivers for 10 or more hours weekly reported more severe disruptions at work.

“So-called sandwiched caregivers, typically middle-aged, are caring for ailing parents while trying to work full-time and raise their own children,” said the study’s lead author Matthew A. Andersson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor.

“What’s particularly troubling … is that employees who are experiencing work interruption are much more likely to say they have unmet need for workplace support,” Andersson said. “This tells us that employers may not be stepping up to connect informal caregivers with workplace supports they need. That makes caregiving an even tougher role.”

Andersson cited employer-sponsored programs such as eldercare referral and employee assistance programs, financial and eldercare counseling, along with flexible work schedules and other accommodations designed to support family needs, as areas of opportunity for employers.

“We know that informal caregiving is becoming more common and more complicated due to the multiple health conditions of care recipients and the all-too-familiar work-family conflict … we need to get employers more involved in the reality of this pressing situation,” he added.

Pinpointing surgery risks

The American College of Surgeons recently identified four specific health factors impacting elderly patients’ lifestyles and ability to return home after surgery.

Seniors who undergo surgery are often more vulnerable than younger adults to complications that delay their recovery. As part of its Geriatric Surgery Pilot Project, the American College of Surgeons recently identified four specific risk factors associated with older patients’ inability to return home for at least a month after surgery.

A research team looked at about 4,000 patients who had inpatient procedures between 2015 and 2017. Eighteen percent of them were still living in a care facility 30 days after surgical treatment. These patients commonly had one or more of four health events: 1. a history of a fall within the past year, 2. preoperative malnutrition as defined by more than 10% of unintentional weight loss, 3. postoperative delirium, and 4. a new or worsening pressure ulcer after surgery.

This information can help surgeons advise patients beforehand about the possible effects of a surgical procedure on their clinical outcomes and future lifestyles, the group stated. It also may guide hospital quality improvement programs to address these conditions.

“When surgeons speak with older patients about the decision to operate, we discuss complication rates and the risk of mortality. We don’t usually talk about whether they will have the independence they had beforehand,” said study co-author Ronnie Rosenthal, M.D., F.A.C.S. “This information should help us make better preoperative decisions with our patients by allowing us to tell them about the impact a surgical procedure will have on their way of life.”

On the calendar

St. Louis Oasis presents an eight-week session, A Matter of Balance, on Thursdays beginning Aug. 8 through Sept. 26 from 1-3 p.m. at the Corporate Parkway Branch Library, 1200 Corporate Parkway in Wentzville. Learn what leads to a fall and how to keep yourself on your feet. Stretching and light movements are introduced in the third class. A workbook and light refreshments are provided. The course fee is $10. Register online at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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The 15th annual Healthy Living Senior Fair is on Tuesday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the St. Charles Convention Center, 1 Convention Center Plaza in St. Charles. Sponsored by Baue, the fair will feature free health screenings and entertainment along with information and resources from more than 100 exhibitors. Admission is free, and no advance registration is required. For more information, call (636) 328-0888.

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A special presentation by Baue, Conversations About Advance Funeral Planning, is on Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 9-10 a.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters. Get answers to your questions during this discussion on funeral and cemetery pre-planning; there is no cost to attend. Register online at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events or by calling (636) 928-9355.

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Free bone density screenings for women are offered on Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 2-4 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1; and on Wednesday, Aug. 21 from 10 a.m.-noon and Tuesday, Aug. 27 from 6-8 p.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. For more information and to register, call (636) 928-9355.

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BJC sponsors a monthly Better Breathers group meeting on Monday, Aug. 19 from noon-1 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1. This group is for those with chronic breathing conditions such as asthma, COPD, emphysema and bronchitis. Attendance is free. To register, call (636) 928-9355.

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Understanding and Responding to Dementia-Related Behavior, presented by the Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Chapter is on Wednesday, Sept. 4 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Kisker Road Branch Library, 1000 Kisker Road in St. Charles. Behavior is a powerful form of communication, and is one of the primary ways for people with dementia to communicate their needs and feelings as their language ability decreases. However, some behaviors can present real challenges for caregivers. Join us to learn how to decode behavioral messages, identify common behavior triggers, and learn strategies to deal with challenges. This is an Advanced Caregiver Workshop, and is not appropriate for those who are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The free program is presented in partnership with Barnes-Jewish St. Peters and Progress West Hospitals. To register, call (636) 928-9355 or visit bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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AARP sponsors a Smart Driver Course on Friday, Sept. 6 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Adult and Community Education Center, 2400 Zumbehl Road in St. Charles. This program will help tune up your driving skills, update your knowledge of the rules of the road, learn about normal age-related physical changes and ways to adjust for these changes. The cost is $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members. To register, call (636) 443-4043.

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