RICHFIELD—The Area Agency on Aging, a program of the Six County Association of Governments (AOG), is asking Sanpete County residents who are caring for a dementia patient to respond to a survey to help the area agency meet their needs.
The survey is directed by Maria Ricks of Fairview as part of her final project for her master’s degree in gerontology at the University of Utah. In connection with her studies, she has been working in aging services for the Six County AOG for several months.
A flier describing the on-line survey is inserted in the Sanpete Messenger and Gunnison Valley Gazette this week. If you scan the QR code on the flier with your cell phone, you will go directly to the survey. Or you can copy the following link into your browser: https://tinyurl.com/mariaricks.
Improved services for dementia caregivers are needed now more than ever, Ricks says. According to the Kem C. Gardner Institute at the University of Utah, an operation that studies Utah public policy issues, 11.4% of Utah’s current population is 65 or older. Utah has the sixth fastest growth rate in the nation of people 65 and above.
Between 2020 and 2030, the Gardner Institute projects, the number of older adults aged 75 years and older in Utah will increase by 60% as the baby-boom generation ages. With that aging population, Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias will increase.
“Caregiving for persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias without support takes a toll on the health of caregivers, especially if the caregiver is an older adult,” Ricks says. “It can be overwhelming and exhausting especially when extended over a long period of time.”
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 60% of dementia caregivers rate their emotional stress as high or very high, while 40% report symptoms of depression. If aging agencies are not prepared to support caregivers, these statistics indicate an impending health crisis, Ricks says.
“Rural areas will be especially impacted, since most older adults want to stay in homes and communities where they have spent most of their lives,” Rick says.
The Gardner Institute found that more than 20% of the Six County population is involved in caregiving. That may partly reflect lower income levels in rural areas, Ricks says. Many seniors in rural areas can’t afford private-pay services. And most caregivers are either on a fixed income, or they are “sandwiched” between raising a family and caring for aging parents.
To prioritize the needs of caregivers in the Six County Area, it is important to get a needs assessment from the caregiver’s perspective, she says.
Often programs are designed based on what works for agencies or funders, not the participants.
If you are a family caregiver, former or present, or you are an unpaid or paid helper who looks after a sick, older, or disabled person and you live in Juab, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier or Wayne counties, please take a few minutes to fill out the online survey.
Your feedback is important to the Six County Area Agency on Aging as well as to your legislators. Your answers will remain anonymous. The deadline for taking the survey is April 6.