February 23, 2009

Child Caregivers

The "Sandwich Generation", those caught between their aging parents and young children, includes some 20 million Americans. But it seems that society has overlooked one other layer: child caregivers, those children caught between childhood and sick parents or grandparents.

In today's NYT article In Turnabout, Children Take Caregiver Role, NYT reporter Pam Belluck reveals the growing issue of child caregivers.

A 2005 nationwide study suggested that about 3 percent of households with children ages 8 to 18 included child caregivers. Experts say they expect the numbers to grow as chronically ill patients leave hospitals sooner and live longer, the recession compels patients to forgo paid help and veterans need home care.

The article is not only extremely interesting (as well as eye-opening), but the various comments left by readers are as well. I encourage all to take a moment to read the article and to browse through the Readers Comments.

In light of TEM's film The Sandwich Generation, which intimately captures how caregiving can take both a physical and mental toll on the caregivers AND the whole family, do you think child caregiving is a necessary and reasonable expectation or an inappropriate level of responsibility?

February 19, 2009

"For Uninsured Young Adults, Do-It-Yourself Health Care"

"They borrow leftover prescription drugs from friends, attempt to self-diagnose ailments online, stretch their diabetes and asthma medicines for as long as possible and set their own broken bones. When emergencies strike, they rarely can afford the bills that follow....."

No, the above paragraph isn't describing a third-world country....it's describing AMERICA's very own heathcare system.

In yesterday's NYT article For Uninsured Young Adults, Do-It-Yourself Health Care, journalist Cara Buckley provides an intimate look into one of the nation's latest (and dangerous) trends--
people in their 20s shunning health insurance either because their age makes them feel invulnerable or because expensive policies are out of reach. And, if I didn't know better, I would have thought that Buckley had taken a page right out of my own 20-something, uninsured life that I experienced last year before coming to TEM.....

In 2007, as a recent college graduate and newbie to the workforce, I found myself interning at a low-paying job....not offered any insurance, unable to pay for COBRA, and no longer eligible to be on my parents' plan. Luckily (or not so lucky, depending on how you look at it), I was only uninsured for about 3 months....but one of the most nerve-wracking 3 months of my life. Like the other young adults in Buckley's article, I attempted to self-diagnose my ailments online and postpone doctor visits. At one time, I even refused to go to the doctor when I thought I had a stomach ulcer and was left doubled over in excruciating stomach pain. Rather than go to the ER, I chose to suffer through the night and stock up on over-the-counter meds until I could make it home to Massachusetts to see our family doctor...and where my parents could cover the tab. (If you're wondering what was the doctor's diagnosis, sorry but you're out of luck. I dealt with the stomach pains for about a week until they gradually subsided on their own and went away). I felt so vulnerable living without health insurance that I became nervous to even step off the curb!

Thankfully, my bout with Do-It-Yourself Health Care came to an end when my parents came to my rescue and paid for my expensive COBRA plan. Happy to be insured?? Yes! Happy to continue depending on my 60-year-old parents for financial assistance?? Take a guess.

Now a year later, although I am both fully employed and insured, I am still a witness to the "Do-It-Yourself Health Care" system--this time it's my best friend who balances her health with a low-paying job and high-priced city. When the choice comes down to paying for an expensive heart medication that prevents her from fainting or paying the bills, like many of the subjects in Buckley's article, my friend chooses the latter.

February 18, 2009

TEM Featured on AARP.org

Hometown, Pennsylvania felt the economic crisis long before the rest of the country. First the coal mines shut down, then the steel mills and garment factories followed. Once known as the "Long-Underwear Capital of the World," Hometown is now struggling to hold on to the few jobs that are left.

WHAT HAPPENED TO HOMETOWN?, currently featured on AARP's website, profiles this rural community in light of the nation's current economic crisis. Hometown's economy, like that of the rest of the country, has fallen on hard times, facing layoffs, declining 401k plans, and home foreclosures. Despite the waves of economic shocks, Hometown residents persevere and prove to be a model of resilience for other hometowns across America.

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