The MIT AgeLab, Transamerica, and Florida Blue hosted a webinar titled “Caring for a Loved One? Life Solutions for Caregivers in a New Era.” The hour-long event delivered new MIT AgeLab research and highlighted resources and supports for the more than one in five of Americans who are caregivers.
Providing introductory remarks for the webinar, AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin observed the commonness of caregiving, the ways that the term “caregiver” sometimes falls short of encompassing the experience of helping a loved one, and the mission of the MIT AgeLab CareHive research consortium, the goal of which is to learn from caregivers in order to help caregivers.
MIT AgeLab Research Scientist Chaiwoo Lee reviewed results of new research from the CareHive. She discussed how a substantial number of respondents said that the term “caregiver” was inadequate to describe what they do for their loved one, but they also weren’t able to come up with an alternative term – suggesting a significant communication challenge. Dr. Lee also discussed caregiver worries about COVID-19: 60% of caregivers reported thinking about the pandemic a lot of the time or all of the time, even back in March 2020, when the pandemic had yet to impact the United States significantly. Caregivers tended to be more worried about their care recipient contracting COVID-19 than catching the virus themselves, suggesting that the pandemic may be affecting them in unique ways. Finally, she provided an overview of caregiver attitudes toward the use of technology for caregiving. Caregivers were more likely to use technology for general purposes than for caregiving specifically, but they were open to the possibility of using technology for caregiving.
Dr. Elizabeth Malko, Vice President & Chief Medical Officer for Medicare Solutions at Florida Blue Cross and Blue Shield, discussed Florida Blue Medicare’s initiatives to improve the lives of caregivers. Florida Blue recently organized and sponsored a Caregiving for Caregivers innovation challenge to award entrepreneurs and help them grow their caregiving solutions. The company also recently instituted two weeks of paid caregiving leave for its employees. In addition, Florida Blue has developed strategic partnerships with other organizations that seek to improve the lives of caregivers and older adults, including Archangels, Papa, and Growing Bolder. Finally, she provided an overview of some resources that Florida Blue Medicare provides that are relevant to caregivers, including telehealth services, a mental health helpline, and information about COVID-19.
Mark Halloran, Managing Director of Business at Transamerica, described insights and tools for both caregivers and financial professionals to help plan for a more financially secure future. Halloran highlighted the importance of wealth and health for quality of life in older age, as well as the need to instruct financial advisors to focus on health as a crucial resource and set of issues in addition to finances. He talked about his own personal experience as a caregiver to his parents and managing his own health, and discovering the limitations of the financial advice industry in helping people who are dealing with health-related challenges for themselves and their loved ones. He then highlighted Transamerica’s set of guides for caregivers and financial advisors designed to help clients with dementia secure their financial future.
A short Q&A session followed the three presentations. Audience members included sponsors of the MIT AgeLab, representatives from Florida Blue and Transamerica, and participants from the CareHive international caregiver panel.