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“Maybe this is a terrible thing to say but I’m terrified of how long he’s going to live and how much it’s going to cost,” she said.

Like Schmid’s father, very few Americans have purchased private, and pricey, long-term care insurance, and Medicare doesn’t pay for that kind of care. That’s why family members wind up performing so much of it for so long. The Obama administration last fall ended efforts to establish a government-sponsored program to make long-term care insurance more affordable, finding it financially unsustainable.

A key message of the new campaign is for caregivers not to neglect their own needs.

The ads direct people to AARP’s website _ http://www.aarp.org/caregiving _ to find information and services from that organization and others, what Whitman describes as a one-stop starting point for resources.

The site offers Web chats with caregiving experts, online support groups, legal documents and links to such programs as locators for care providers _ http://www.eldercare.gov _ or respite services _ http://www.archrespite.org. A new “Prepare to Care” brochure offers to-do checklists for families new to caregiving, and people not as web-savvy can call a hotline at 877-333-5885.

Too many caregivers don’t know such services exist, or even that they can ask their loved ones’ doctors to refer them for help until there’s a crisis, said Dr. Eileen Callahan, a geriatrician at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center who isn’t involved with the AARP campaign.

The AARP project is broader than another new effort targeting caregivers _ a government website that, as part of the National Alzheimer’s Plan, offers families information specific to dementia care at http://www.alzheimers.gov.

Mount Sinai’s Callahan said national efforts to educate all caregivers, regardless of the health problem, are long overdue.

“They should not feel so isolated,” she said. “It is so incredibly sad.”