Task force to target care givers' problems Focus is adults who provide for their parents, children

June 03, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Like many of his constituents, Baltimore County Del. Michael J. Finifter is a member of the "sandwich generation" -- with two young children and aging parents.

He realizes he could get caught in the cross fire of providing care for all of them at the same time in coming years. And he knows that many other people face the same issue in Baltimore County, which has the largest population of elderly people in the state.

With that in mind, Finifter is forming a task force to examine issues faced by middle-generation care givers and to develop ways to help.

"This is the first time that key professionals from many disciplines, along with sandwich-generation care givers, will sit at the same table and come up with ideas for action," said Finifter, an Owings Mills Democrat.

He also hopes to use Baltimore County as a pilot project, HTC tracking concerns, such as financial and emotional pressures, depression, burnout and isolation, through a minicensus.

"It's an issue to be discussed," said Finifter, 38. "The idea is to create awareness."

Working with the county Department of Aging and representatives of the Kensington-based National Family Caregivers Association, he said he wants to get the word out that care givers are not alone.

"It is an extraordinarily important issue because it affects all of us," said Suzanne Mintz, president and co-founder of the private, nonprofit association. "It's a population at risk. It's a population no one asks about."

According to statistics compiled by the association, 70 percent of family care givers are between 40 and 59 years of age, and 80 percent of family care givers are women.

"At the Baltimore County Department of Aging, it is our experience that an increasing number of middle-aged citizens, primarily women, are struggling to care for their children and their aging relatives, often while working outside the home," said Barbara Korenblit, a department supervisor. "More care givers are reaching out for help."

The task force, which Finifter plans to announce by midsummer, will be charged with examining ways to provide financial aid to care givers, to suggest tax law changes to help care givers and their families, and to create public-private partnerships to address other concerns.

Finifter wants an interim report from the 20-member group by January and a final analysis by 1998. He also hopes to involve government officials and residents statewide.

"I want them to be part of the process," he said. "We will have a better shot at implementing the findings through legislation."

The implications are far-reaching, Mintz said.

"We as a society -- whether in the state of Maryland or nationwide -- need to recognize that a huge population who is not part of the health care system is not being given any help," she said. "Who's going to pick up the tab?"

Pub Date: 6/03/96

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