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Caregivers face increasing challenges in already tough job

JEROME, Idaho (AP) — Terri Van Zante left a full-time job making $12 per hour so she could take care of her mom.

The good news: The state pays for her work.

The bad news: It ends up being about $2.58 per hour for the 24/7 job, with no vacations or holidays and lots of extra work to get the pay.

Van Zante had to have her Jerome home certified by the State of Idaho so she can take care of her mother, Shirley Merchant, after years of caring for her father, who passed away in 2010. She also had to get certified by the state to get the $62 per day.

“The amount of money I get is based on the amount of need,” she told The Times-News. But “the financial cost is not the only cost of being a caregiver.”

As Americans continue to live longer, not only does the number of people needing care increase, but much of that burden falls to children who are aging themselves.

The physical and mental toll on caregivers is phenomenal, said Shawna Wasko of the College of Southern Idaho’s Office on Aging.

Wasko knows this first hand since she is a caregiver for her parents while also working full-time.

“It’s very difficult,” she said.

The Office on Aging holds support meetings on campus where the caregivers can come and air their concerns or just talk with others sharing the same experiences.

As many as 40 people can show up for the meetings, Wasko said, and the office serves hundreds of caregivers.

The Office on Aging helps with resources for caregivers, including access to homemaker services, Wasko explained. Having someone come to the house to vacuum the carpets, do laundry or perform cleaning tasks can lift some of the burden from the caregiver.

The caregivers assisted by the Office on Aging are often themselves senior citizens, caring for a spouse or older parents, Wasko said.

Van Zante is very appreciative of the Office on Aging and the opportunity to spend an hour and a half a month with others listening to a speaker or a teacher, or just interacting with others.

The first concern for many caregivers is keeping their loved ones at home, Wasko said. The idea of placing a spouse or parent in a nursing home or other facility raises many other concerns, primary being the high cost and level of care.

That cost can range from $6,000 a month to $10,000 a month, Wasko said.

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