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SENIOR CAREGIVERS LEARN THERE'S HELP AVAILABLE

Nov. 25, 2003 – Today's middle-agers are being referred to as the "sandwich generation," Denyce Singleton says, because they are squeezed between caring for their children and their aging relatives.
This may cause loss of productivity at work, burnout, or illness on the part of the caregivers themselves, she says, but such people have a critical role to play in today's society, and they need support so that they can cope with the demands on their time, energy, finances and emotions.
It was for these people, particularly in their role as caregivers for the elderly, that territory's AARP organization sponsored an eldercare conference on Saturday at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas.
At the conference, local caregivers were able to receive information, advice and support."The purpose was to bring answers and visibility to challenges when it comes to being a caregiver," Singleton, the territory's AARP director, said.
People in this position "need the support to make sure they can give" the care their relatives need, Human Services Commissioner Sedonie Halbert said, describing services available in the territory to such individuals. Her department conducts support groups and provides individual and family counseling, training, adult sitting, information and referral, and supplemental services, she said.
The second-floor gallery of the Sugar Bay main building was filled with some 150 persons who attended workshops of their choice and heard from local and national experts on topics concerning care for the elderly.
Among the topics addressed were long-distance caregiving; medical and non-medical initiatives in cancer care; legal issues including wills, advance directives, power of attorney and Social Security disability assistance; long-term care insurance; and elder abuse.
Cancer specialist Dr. Bert Petersen, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, Dr. Cora Christian and Clema Lewis, co-director of the St. Croix Women's Coalition, were among the presenters. As resources, the AARP drew on people "willing to help us," Singleton said.
The organization — formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons — has published a guide for family caregivers with descriptions of some available services and contact information. AARP decided to create the directory because there is "information in so many different places, so you don't know where to begin," Singleton said.
At the hotel, vendors had tables set up to provide flu shots and information about medical air insurance and assistance in caring for persons with disabilities.
Singleton said the local AARP hopes to help improve the quality of life in the territory and to provide more services for its 17,500 members.
"In the Virgin Islands we need to expand" services to and for seniors, she said, at the same time that lawmakers are cutting back on funding for such services. But by provided increased services to family caregivers, there will be less need to build nursing homes, she said.

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