Senior Home Care Cooperative

The Need for a Cooperative

(Updated 2 February 1999) Today, many older adults who need 24-hour care and their families are faced with an agonizing dilemma. They want the older adults to be able to remain at home in familiar surroundings, among people who love them and where they can retain their identities and some control over their own lives. However, as committed as these families are to providing care at home, the burden is often too great. Studies show that family caregivers experience high levels of stress, fatigue, financial hardship, isolation, deterioration of personal health, and conflict between their caregiving responsibilities and their obligations to family, career, and personal well-being. And, yet, the only other option - a nursing home - is difficult to accept because of those things which often accompany institutionalization, such as loss of control and individuality, the often-times inferior physical care, and the exclusion of family members.

A major contributing factor to the lack of long-term care alternatives in our society is the fact that we do not value the process of aging or the work of caregiving. Instead we value a life of youthfulness, activity, fitness and autonomy. When a person becomes old and sick or frail, and thus dependent, we no longer value that person's life. As a consequence, we do not have good ways of providing the frail elderly with the care they need. In addition, family caregivers receive very little financial and social support, and paid caregivers are accorded low status and a minimum wage.

We expect that the establishment of a Senior Home Care Cooperative would result in significant social change. First, it would bring about an enormous change in the lives of older adults who need care. The option of receiving that care in a setting in which they are able to maintain their identity and some control over their lives, surrounded by family and friends - in an environment where aging is valued and affirmed - would rescue many older adults from lives of despair, additional disability, and premature death.

The Cooperative would also bring about an enormous change in the lives of family caregivers. Being able to share the caregiving responsibilities with other members of a cooperative would allow the caregivers to continue to participate in caring for their elderly person and still have lives of their own. They would also be nurtured by being in the company of other caregiving families.

Finally, the Cooperative would bring about an important change in the lives of paid caregivers. In the Cooperative, their important contribution to the lives of the frail elderly would be recognized and reflected in a just and living wage, respect within the context of a cooperative effort, and inclusion in the decision-making process.

Since a Senior Home Care Cooperatives would provide an alternative which does not currently exist and since it responds to such a widespread need, we expect that many such cooperatives will develop once they are shown to be successful. The cooperative venture, with its joint ownership and shared caregiving, will empower people who, by working together, will be able to provide a good quality of life for elderly family members. The lives of many people will be changed in these settings and, over time, the expectations and options for long-term care for older adults in this society will be changed as well.

More Information:
The Need for a Cooperative
Description of the Cooperative
Accomplished in 1997
Accomplished in 1998
Accomplished in 1999
Accomplished in 2000

For more information please contact:
shca at (email) or
Claudia George at (773) 248-2072.

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