Virginia Harr presented three vignettes to guests at the December meeting of the Rhawnhurst Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.
Harr manages CARES, a program sponsored by Fishtown-based Lutheran Settlement House that assists caregivers. It’s an acronym for CAregivers REducing Stress.
A licensed social worker, Harr spoke of Mary, who checks in daily with her ailing mother while raising a family; Bill, whose wife of 40 years, Janet, is showing early signs of dementia; and Ramona, who sacrifices time with her boyfriend to perform chores for her uncle, who has chronic back pain.
All are caregivers, even if they are doing everyday tasks for an elderly or disabled loved one without a second thought.
“A lot of people don’t see themselves as caregivers,” Harr said.
In the United States, there are some 50 million caregivers, according to Harr. These good folks work for nothing, helping out relatives, friends and neighbors on a daily or occasional basis. Some live with the person receiving care; others do not.
Harr offered a box of assorted chocolate candy to the person who could correctly answer the most questions on caregiving.
It was former first lady Rosalynn Carter who said that there are four kinds of people in the world: those who have been, are currently, will be, or will be in need of a caregiver.
The term is “Sandwich Generation” for people caring for aging parents while supporting their own children.
Sixty percent of caregivers are women.
Twenty percent of caregivers suffer from depression, a figure that rises to 40 percent for those caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease.
Perhaps the most eye-popping number is $306 billion — the amount of money caregivers in America would earn each year if they charged for their services.
Harr, whose office is at 1340 Frankford Ave. (at Master Street), said CARES helps caregivers age 60 and older in the Philadelphia area.
Counseling can take place either one-on-one or with a family, at Harr’s office or in a home setting. Participants can gain emotional support and information about respite care, day programs and other available resources. There is also a weekly support group that meets on Wednesdays. And the program offers a monthly lecture series.
All of the services are free.
CARES can be helpful, Harr said, because so many caregivers battle burnout, anxiety, frustration and stress.
“It will be better for you and the person you’re caring for,” she said of the assistance.
Harr said she’d work with NORC members if there is enough interest among caregivers.
The NORC offers services for seniors in the 19111, 19149 and 19152 ZIP codes. Program manager Abby Gilbert said the group could be expanded to include caregivers in other parts of the Northeast.
“We’d be happy to work with Virginia on a support group for caregivers,” she said.
To reach Harr, call 215-426-8610 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
In other news from the Dec. 27 meeting:
• Jack Belitsky, a friend of the NORC, will lead a discussion on the book The Buddha in the Attic on Thursday, Jan. 31 at Klein JCC, at 10100 Jamison Ave. Author Julie Otsuka tells the story of a group of young women brought over from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago.
Lunch will be served at 11:45 a.m. The discussion starts at 1 p.m. Call Shelley Geltzer at 215-698-7300, Ext. 129.
• The NORC, a program of Catholic Health Care Services and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, is looking to expand its list of preferred service providers. Anyone who wants to recommend an electrician, landscaper, plumber, roofer or other vendor can call Abby Gilbert or outreach coordinator Alan McHale at 215-320-0351.
• The group is looking for volunteers to shovel snow for senior citizens. Anyone interested in joining the Philly Snow Corps can e-mail Abby Gilbert at email@example.com
• Rhawnhurst NORC will meet again on Thursday, Jan. 24, at noon, at Samuel Tabas House, at 2101 Strahle St. There will be music, dancing, and a hot lunch.
The group will hold another “lunch and learn” on Feb. 28 at Congregations of Ner Zedek, at 7520 Bustleton Ave. Mark Michelman will speak on “A Guide to Covering Your Medical Expenses: Healthcare in Retirement.” A box lunch will be served.
A St. John Neumann Nursing Home nurse will do blood pressure checks starting at 11:30 a.m. ••