As America’s population lives longer and its baby boomers continue to gray, Interfaith Caregivers of Greater Mercer County is witnessing an increased need for services firsthand.
Coming from 25 interdenominational groups and congregations, Interfaith Caregivers’ trained volunteers visit the homes of homebound seniors and people with disabilities throughout Mercer County, providing free services such as rides to doctors’ appointments; help with paperwork; friendly visits and phone calls; shopping assistance; or assistance with indoor and outdoor chores. Since 1994 the Hamilton-based nonprofit has recruited, screened, trained, and managed nearly 2,000 volunteers who have cared for more than 2,600 county residents. Its small staff handles close to 2,500 requests for assistance each year and, between 2010 and 2012, volunteer service hours rose 22 percent.
Executive Director Jane Latini says, “The need for caregiving assistance is tremendous, as are the benefits. Our volunteers reduce the isolation and insecurity that often accompany old age and disabilities, helping people retain their dignity and remain in the comfort of their own cherished homes.”
In addition to the more than 300 county residents receiving care each year, the organization’s free services provide substantial benefits to families and the business world.
“The Family Caregivers Alliance reports that more than 57 percent of the time, the caregiver is a daughter or other female relative who is juggling the needs of aging parents and minor children while working one or more jobs,” Latini explains. “In some instances, an elderly spouse with their own health issues is thrust into the role of caregiver.”
Family caregiving studies over the past 30 years indicate negative effects on caregivers’ financial situation, career and retirement security, and physical and emotional health. A MetLife study also reported businesses lose up to $33.6 billion a year in productivity for caregivers who must take time off from work.
Maria Vandervort, a Hamilton resident and self-described member of the “stressed out sandwich generation,” describes Interfaith Caregivers services as “priceless.”
“Mom is 92 and recently came to live with me. She is homebound, and her Interfaith Caregiver, Evelyn, has been an indescribable blessing. I have a job and very active nine-year-old twins. When I am at work or running the kids around, Evelyn regularly visits, reads to her, tells stories — simply keeps Mom happy and engaged. I try, but I get so tied up with the kids, work, plus Mom’s medical needs, errands, and bills, that, often, I just can’t. Interfaith Caregivers also hooked us up with health services I never knew about. The kindness and peace of mind it has given me, Mom, and my whole family is priceless!”
Interfaith Caregivers of Greater Mercer County is in need of volunteers and donations.
Please visit www.icgmc.org or call 609-393-9922.