Growing older: Web site offers info about elder care

Some young people have a tendency to think they’ll live forever. With today’s figures, they can count on an average lifespan of approximately 80 years, according to the U’s Health Sciences Center.

Although this existence is not forever, life expectancy has increased by 29.4 years in the past century.

Along with the life-expectancy increase, the percentage of Americans more than age 65 has tripled in the same period.

Although college students do not comprise that percentage, it is likely that they directly know someone who is more than 65. In many cases, students are partial or primary care-givers to elderly people.

It is estimated that family care-givers provide 80 percent of the long-term care in this country, according the center.

“More and more people are finding that they have family members who are getting older and a lot of people are going to be in that situation where they’re wanting support to cope with issues [of elder care],” said Rebecca Burrage of the U’s College of Nursing.

Scott Wright, an associate professor at the Gerontology Center, agrees.

“There is a diverse student population at the U, and many students have parents or grandparents in the situation where elder care information and referral may be needed,” Wright said.

For those reasons, Wright and Burrage, along with Yvonne Sehy, a nurse at the College of Nursing, have started a referral Web site pertaining to elder care information and help.

The Elder Care Information and Referral Program is a free service designed to benefit the U community by providing general and customized assistance in the many areas of elder care.

The site offers assistance from a team of pharmacists, social workers, physicians, hospice nurses and employee assistants, among other specialists.

“We believe that elder care issues will be a major issue in the lives of aging individuals and their families. The service is a beginning step to address that issue for the [U] community,” Wright said.

“Older adults are a very diverse group, with many being active and interested in recreation and products and services geared toward their age group. Other less-fortunate older adults will require health care for chronic conditions and some even requiring institutionalization,” said Bruce Rigby, an associate instructor at the Gerontology Center and College of Nursing.

“Our goal is to help provide information and referral services about elder care in Salt Lake County, the state of Utah and across the nation,” states the program’s Web site, which is a joint collaboration between the Gerontology Center, the College of Nursing and the Health Sciences Center.

“It is our belief that even some background in the field of aging can be an important asset to large numbers of students at the U, regardless of their major,” Rigby said.

Those with questions can simvply write to [email protected] or access the site at uuhsc.utah.edu and can expect a personal and private response within a week.

“Every question is answered,” Burrage said.

Elder care encompasses a wide variety of issues.Some of the previous inquires have included concerns about glaucoma, macular degeneration and finding suitable accommodations for the elderly.

Other questions have ranged from more serious conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, to arthritis.

“We want this to be a resource for people who have concerns about aging, especially if they are about family members of themselves,” Burrage said. “Just like we provide support for people with children through child care.”

“This is an issue for people of all ages. It is intergenerational and thus we see child care and elder care as complimentary services. They are different, but it points out that families may need information about relation quality care-giving across the life course,” Wright said.

Although the program now offers basic information and referral services, the coordinators hope to “offer deeper and more direct service in the realm of evaluation and assessment [in the future],” Wright said. “We hope to provide a toll-free number and direct consultation by phone.”

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