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Making a Good Plan: Cigna’s Michael Sturmer Talks Supporting Caregivers

It’s estimated that 44 million people provides full-time or part-time care to a family member, whether an elderly parent or new mother. Yet today’s caregivers are rarely equipped to assume the responsibilities that come with caring for a loved one and receive minimal support – financial and emotional. How do we address this challenge? Ahead of tomorrow’s panel discussion on caring for our caregivers (RSVP for that here) we spoke with Michael Sturmer – Senior Director, Consumer Health Engagement at Cigna about planning for the unexpected.

How do you define a ‘caregiver’ — has that definition changed or evolved?  
There are a lot of formal definitions, but I think it is really about a person (family member, friend, neighbor) provide a level of physical and/or emotional support for a loved one.
What are some of the issued faced by caregivers today? 
There are several opportunities to better support and embrace the caregiver.  If I had to summarize I think its ‘confidence.’ If we could help increase a caregiver’s confidence in decisions they are making – from preparation to actions –  think that would go a long way to helping them on this journey.

How can we better plan to become caregivers – whether for an aging parent, child, or loved one? 
You hit the magic word.  Planning.  I don’t think many of us have a plan for when we will become a caregiver, it either happens as a result of a crisis event or evolves over time from a place of “just helping out” to a more intense level of support.

Are there good resources for caregivers to receive support and training to assume the responsibility of taking care of a loved one?
There are resources, I think the opportunity is how to find them, how to curate the one that is the best fit for the caregivers needs, and then anticipate what the next resource will be, really a way to plan and navigate against that plan.

What are three steps you can take to put a plan in place for providing a family member with the care they need?
There are several steps you can take to better prepare yourself for being a caregiver.  It might sound odd but I think the first step is to make a plan for how you will continue to take care of yourself.  We know that caregivers tend to suffer from higher health risks themselves and carry high levels of stress and anxiety.  I think understanding this and then planning for how to keep “you” healthy will make you better prepared and able to care for a loved one.

Have more questions? Ask them live at tomorrow’s panel discussion where experts in prevention and caregiving will talk planning ahead (RSVP for that here).