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MIT Workplace Center publishes elder care handbook

The MIT Workplace Center's research on the geriatric health care system in the Greater Boston area has concluded that families are playing an increasingly important role in the care of elders.

A new publication, "The Family Caregiver Handbook: Finding Elder Care Resources in Massachusetts," produced by the center, was released at a public forum held at MIT Sloan on Jan. 31. A panel of elder-care experts, service providers and advocates discussed ideas and methods of expanding support for those who care for elders.

"The handbook has two major purposes," said Ann Bookman, executive director of the MIT Workplace Center. "First, it provides a gateway to the many elder-care services and resources that exist at the community level, and second, it brings visibility and recognition to the crucial work that elder caregivers do. We found in our research that family caregivers constitute a 'shadow workforce' in the geriatric health care system. We hope the handbook will highlight the valuable care so many families are providing to elders in our society and give them the tools they need to do it more easily."

MIT's research also shows that elder caregivers face many challenges, including lack of access to the basic information needed to find local elder-care services. "The Family Caregiver Handbook" was written with the caregiver in mind. In a user-friendly format, it provides information to consumers on how the elder-care system is organized, educates readers on the terms and acronyms that elder-care professionals use and details the legal and financial issues families need to address early on in the caregiving process.

Andrea Cohen, CEO and co-founder of HouseWorks, a private home care agency, joined four panel members as a part of a cross-sector discussion on the need for expanding support for caregivers. The forum, "Who is Caring for the Caregivers?", explored the current unmet needs that caregivers face and discussed the solutions that a diverse array of community-based organizations and private agencies can provide to support caretakers.

"Disseminating key information on elder care to the public is a crucial step in providing quality care to our elders," said Cohen. "A guide this comprehensive has not been available to consumers in the past and HouseWorks is honored to be part of MIT's mission to provide information on elder-care options to caregivers in Massachusetts. With the increasing need of elder-care services, it is important that consumers are well informed and equipped to make important decisions in the care of their loved ones."

HouseWorks was one of three key sponsors, along with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and SEIU Local 1199 United Healthcare Workers East Union, to partner with the MIT Workplace Center and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the release of the handbook.

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