I was honored to have the chance to speak with AARP’s executive vice president for policy, Debra Whitman on AARP and the Ad Council’s new ad campaign targeting caregivers. As many Americans in this country, I am a caregiver to a loved one, my grandmother whose dementia has turned into Alzheimer’s in recent months. It’s not easy, in fact it’s very difficult, especially when I don’t know from one day to the next what to expect. One day she may know who I am, and the next be combative. There are times when I get up in the morning with less than an hour sleep, but because I love my grandmother and my job I put on a brave face and work as diligently as possible. It can be very isolating, but rewarding at the same time. It helps to know that there are more than 42.1 million Americans in my shoes, especially when you think you’re the only one going through it. I’m certain that AARP and the Ad Council’s new ad campaign targeting caregivers will get more caregivers to speak out who otherwise wouldn’t, just as I have today.
Candace Rose: Can you tell us about AARP’s recent poll with boomer women caregivers?
Debra Whitman: “Absolutely. We asked caregivers who they are and what they’re experiencing, and we found that the average caregiver is a woman in her late forties traveling 20 miles and helping out 20 hours a week, that’s a part-time job. But for many it’s a more than full-time job.”
Candace Rose: Were there any results that surprised you?
Debra Whitman: “I think we weren’t surprised or at least I wasn’t having gone through this situation myself that people feel pulled in lots of different directions. And even though I have been working in this field for quite some time when it’s you doing it you’re completely ill prepared with how to deal with the finances, how to do deal with the healthcare system, how to really take care of the person that you love when their health is down.”
Candace Rose: What are some common symptoms that caregivers go through?
Debra Whitman: “There’s often a great deal of stress. Many who have jobs have to come in late or leave early. Ideally they don’t lose their job because that puts their own financial security at risk and their future retirement security. So many people feel strained and that’s what this new ad campaign that we’re releasing with the Ad Council really tries to get at the frustration that people feel in the situation but still love for the person that they’re caring for.”
Candace Rose: Can you tell us more about the new ad campaign?
Debra Whitman: “AARP is joining up with the Ad Council to reach the 42 million Americans that are taking care of their mother, their father or their aunts and uncles and give them the resources that they need at AARP.org/Caregiving, not just to take care of their loved ones, but also to find help for themselves.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional information to share with viewers?
Debra Whitman: “Absolutely. Our website’s going to have chat rooms where you can meet up and talk to people in similar situations and share your stories, speak to experts, put in your zip code and find resources in your local area. We think it’s a great resource for people who don’t know where to turn.