A study released Wednesday by AARP shows a majority of South Carolinians are caring for an elderly family member or loved one or have in the past.
It also found that 3 out of 4 people favor spending more state money on services that allow seniors to live in their own homes.
Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who heads the state's Office on Aging, says home and community-based care is anywhere from 20 to 40 times cheaper than putting a senior citizen in a nursing home.
"There are 770,000 family members across this state right now giving care to loved ones, for which they are not being paid. If they gave up and quit, it would cost, and these folks got institutionalized, it would cost almost $7 billion," he says.
The study found that 79 percent say information about what resources are available to help caregivers would be very or somewhat helpful. 77 percent say assistance with household chores would be very or somewhat helpful, and 75 percent say that about respite care, or breaks from care giving.
Dennis Bell of Columbia and his sister take care of their 89-year-old aunt, who has Alzheimer's. He says respite care would be extremely helpful. "It's very important for us because we end up getting burned out. We're here with her 24/7. Right now, we cannot leave her alone for no period of time," he says. He's had to cancel his own doctor's appointments and miss work because he can't find someone else to take care of his aunt.
Lt. Gov. McConnell says the House's version of the state budget right now includes $5 million for home and community-based care and respite services. He hopes that stays in as it moves through the process.
While 55 percent of people in the study say they have cared for an elderly loved in the past or are currently doing it, 53 percent say it's very likely they'll become caregivers in the next five years. The state's senior population is expected to double by the year 2028.
You can see the entire study at http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-2014/2014-caring-for-yourself-and-your-family--opinions---experiences.html