JACKSON, Miss. – More than 800,000 Mississippians are caregivers, including Ricky Strickland whose wife started showing signs of dementia in 2006.
“She went from being a professional lady to the point now that she has to have care, essentially around the clock,” Strickland explained. From feeding her to helping her dress, Strickland provides that care all day, every day. But after nearly eight years of this loving routine, it has taken a toll on him. “From stress to fatigue. And my doctor told me I had one of three options to look at. One being a heart attack, a stroke and heart attack or going to work and causing someone to have more pain than I was experiencing,” he said. “And as of January of this year, I have gone on full time disability.”
The stress Strickland faces daily is shared by thousands of caregivers across the state according to the findings of a New Caregivers Report released Thursday at the state capitol. “Caregivers say they need the ability to be sustained in the process of caregiving; and to have a time for rest for them to get care from someone else for a short time so that they can be recharged. That’s the biggest issue,” said Spencer Blalock, Chair of The Mississippi Caregivers Task Force. “The other issues is that they need more education on how to take care of their loved ones.”
Acknowledging that it would be just a small step in meeting the needs of caregivers, State Senator Terry Burton, said a bill filed in the Mississippi Legislature this session, if passed, would provide some relief. “The bill would allow an individual to name a caregiver upon entry into the hospital; and then have that caregiver present at discharge so that they would know exactly what the plan of care is for that patient when they get back home.”
After approval by two senate committees, Burton said the bill is expected to be moved to the full Mississippi Senate for consideration sometime next week.