There are 50+ million family caregivers that provide
$470 billion dollars of unpaid care every year.
 Lisa O’Neill (01:06-01:13)

Developing policies and strategies to ensure comprehensive care for this population is challenging and complicated. Thus, it needs to be addressed from multiple angles. We need mechanisms in place to identify caregivers and resources to provide the care that they need. In this week’s episode, we’re going to interview Dr. Lisa O’Neill and Michael Reese Wittke to discuss how the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) deals with family and caregiving issues.

ABOUT DR. LISA O’NEILL:

  • O’Neill received her Doctor of Behavioral Health from Arizona State University and her Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona.
  • Associate Director of Research and Education for the University of Arizona Center on Aging, a Board of Regents Center of Excellence dedicated to promoting healthy aging through interdisciplinary programs in research, education, clinical care and community engagement.
  • Clinical Assistant Professor for the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics, General Internal Medicine and Palliative Medicine.
  • She has more than 10 years’ experience in developing and implementing innovative geriatric education and training for academic and community audiences.
  • Her interdisciplinary research has focused on hoarding disorder, models of home care medicine, Alzheimer’s disease, and optimizing resident quality of life in independent and assisted living settings.
  • Passionate about health policy and advocacy, she is active in several statewide committees dedicated to older adults including holding several leadership positions on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging – including Chair, 2017-2019, and working with the Arizona Alzheimer’s Task Force to help develop the Arizona Alzheimer’s State Plan.

ABOUT MICHAEL REESE WITTKE: 

  • Mike earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work with honors from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from the American University.
  • Leads the federal engagement strategy for the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and directs the National Caregiver Advocacy Collaborative, a network of over 80 state and local advocacy organizations representing over 30 state coalitions.
  • He works directly with policymakers on Capitol Hill, federal agencies, the White House, and participates in national coalitions advocating on behalf of caregivers across the lifespan.
  • Mike has previously served as Chair of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Political Action for Candidate Election Committee and as a member of the NASW Metro Chapter Board of Directors. He came to Washington through an internship with the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Part One of ‘National Alliance for Caregiving  with
Lisa O’Neill DBH, MPH (HAPF Series)’

This week, we are going to talk about the National Alliance for Caregiving . Dr. O’Neill considers family caregivers as the backbone of our healthcare system. In addition to caregiving tasks, caregivers often struggle with complications that include anxiety, sleep disorders, substance abuse, nutritional issues, social isolation, and chronic physical conditions.

They often lack time to attend to their medical needs. Thirty-four percent of caregivers are 65 years old or older. Older caregivers not only spend more than ten years being a caregiver, but they also spend the most hours providing care, averaging 30 to 35 hours a week. We know that roughly eighty-five percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and sixty percent have at least two chronic conditions.

The stress of caregiving tasks is often very overwhelming for caregivers of all ages. – Lisa O’Neill (01:20-01:26)

This means that older adult caregivers may already be struggling with loss of physical function, independence and overall well-being, yet they are still a caregiver. We need to ensure they are also a care receiver. Dr. O’Neill wants to be part of a team that ensures caregivers are also care receivers, which is why the National Alliance for Caregiving was a perfect place for her.

Part Two of ‘National Caregiving Alliance with
Lisa O’Neill DBH, MPH (HAPF Series)’

The National Alliance for Caregiving has been around for over twenty years, and we were founded to research the population of family caregivers across the country. The founder knew that there wasn’t any national representative data that could be used to understand the number of caregivers, what they’re going through and the kind of solutions that would help alleviate some of their situations.

Often, they get thrown into these roles without any preparation. So, it’s up to the health care system, to the social care systems, and to the private industry who is serving caregivers, to understand who they are and how to help them by making sure they’re not only able to maintain their health and wellness, but also make sure that they’re helping provide quality care to those who need serious long-term care.

We need a strategic public awareness campaign that focuses on the importance of caregiving, caregiver identification and the importance of self-care.  -Lisa O’Neill (22:22-22:35)

One of the projects that Dr. O’Neill  worked on is  called the National Caregiver Advocacy Collaborative. The Collaborative is a network of state and national interdisciplinary leaders, experts, and influencers working together to identify and address complex issues surrounding family caregiving across the lifespan, including their social, medical, physical, financial, spiritual, and emotional needs.

They support families of origin and families of choice who need information, referral services, educational outreach, and advocacy. The collaborative mission is to truly build an informed and effective interdisciplinary group of people who are dedicated to sharing their experiences and expertise to improve the lives of family caregivers.

Michael Wittke also confirms that they have brought together state and national level advocates, a mixture of professionals and caregivers equipped to be the national level voice for caregivers, which is not a group formed before. In his role as a Senior Director of National Alliance for Caregiving, Mike  directs NAC’s National Conference of Caregiving Advocates held in conjunction with the American Society on Aging at the annual Aging in America Conference. Under his leadership, NAC has co-hosted a national Hill briefing on Congressional Caregiving Stories with the Gerontological Society of America, AARP, and the John A. Hartford Foundation. Mike has also led national coalition efforts to support key pieces of caregiving legislation, including the R.A.I.S.E. Family Caregivers Act and proposed legislation to create a national “Caregiving Corps.” After joining NAC. in the spring of 2015, Mike supported the organization’s transition in leadership and laid the foundation for growth within NAC’s federal policy strategy.

How to Connect More with Lisa O’Neill, DBH, MPH
… on LinkedIn

How to Connect More with Michael Resse Wittke
… on LinkedIn

Thank you for joining us for this special series of This is Getting Old. Sponsored by the Health and Aging Policy Fellows program, Capstone Conversations is brought to you by MelissaBPhD, in collaboration with The George Washington University’s Center for Aging, Health, and Humanities.

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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at MelissaBPhD.com to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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