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    White paper highlights race towards a ‘Caregiving Cliff’

    Last month the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition (BCWAC), a non-partisan coalition of more than 150 individual and 38 organization partners that empower, educate and advocate together to promote gender equality and economic self-sufficiency for all, held a news conference in the rotunda of the Bucks County Administration Building to announce the release of the white paper from the October 30th, 2015 Caregiving Symposium: “Who Cares? The Economics of Caregiving.”

    The goals of the symposium were to:

    • promote awareness and validate with researched data the financial needs of caregivers;
    • catalyze a dialogue and engage partners among key players to provide insight and potential solutions for an improved economic support system;
    • produce a “white paper” supporting the need for greater awareness and assistance that can be shared with persons in order to effect reform.

    The white paper has been approved by the Symposium host organizations that were represented at the news conference by Ella Roush of the Bucks-Mont Collaborative, who congratulated the BCWAC and said the “outstanding white paper” would be used “as a guide to action.”

    Tam St. Claire, President of BCWAC, opened the news conference by reminding everyone that, “Currently, 65 million people…20% of our total population… help their family, friends or neighbors as unpaid family caregivers every day in this country. With an aging population, today’s 7:1 ratio of available caregiver to those in need of care is shrinking toward a 3:1 ratio within 30-years. This forecast has become known as the ‘Caregiving Cliff.’ Caregiving crosses all socio-economic boundaries and includes elder care, spousal care, child-care, and the care of wounded military members. Sixty percent of caregivers are women. In talking with caregivers, we quickly learn that the job takes a physical and emotional toll on the caregiver. But it is the un- and under-reported financial implications that are most insidious. Caregiving imposes a glass ceiling on women’s earnings, Social Security benefits and career goals, as well as generating additional related expenses. “

    Tam also introduced key speakers Marielena Zuniga, a caregiver and author, Lois Tobin, Deputy Director, Bucks County Area Agency on Aging and a BCWAC Partner, and Deb Madow, Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services, who each spoke passionately and knowledgeably about this growing crisis.

    Marielena pleaded with our elected officials to “listen to her voice and all those of other caregivers” to find solutions.

    Donna Byrne, board member of BCWAC, Chair of the Coalition’s Caregiving Committee and Outreach Coordinator for Women’s Center of Montgomery County presented copies of the white paper to Bucks County Commissioners Rob Loughery and Diane Marseglia. Commission Loughery said, “I appreciate all the work that went into this and we will look for ways to be supportive.”

    Commissioner Marseglia said, “This is very timely for me in my own life. We can advocate for some (of these) solutions.”

    Kurt Imhof, Regional Representative for Senator Robert Casey, accepted the report on Senator Casey’s behalf and shared the following statement from the Senator. “Family caregivers play a vital role in the lives of loved ones and in our society. We have a basic obligation to ensure that our older citizens have access to the care and services they need to live lives with dignity. Family caregivers face unique challenges and often find themselves “sandwiched” between supporting their own children and caring for an aging parent. I commend the consortium led by the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition for putting out this report. I look forward to reviewing it and continuing to work on this important issue.”

    Copies of the report are available to the public on the Coalition’s website, www.bcwac.org.

    PHOTO CAP: From left, Ella Roush, Donna Byrne, Joanne Kline, Tam St. Claire, and Virginia Frantz at the BCWAC press conference.