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As someone who works in the caregiving field, has a radio show for caregivers, and is a caregiver to both parents, I would like to offer a few thoughts.
Family Caregiving Stats
Some 43.5 million Americans have served as family caregivers during the past 12 months, according to a study earlier this year by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving (though other advocates put the number as high as 65 million.)
This number is going to continue to grow as our “oldest old,” those over the age of 85, are the fastest growing segment of our population. 10,000 people a day turn 65! Seventy percent of us will need some type of long term services and support.
Doing More with Less
With state Medicaid budgets shrinking across the nation, more and more responsibility for the care of our frail elders and disabled is falling on family members. Family members are taking their loved ones home from the hospital “quicker and sicker,” providing medical/nursing tasks that were once only performed by clinicians.
Sixty percent of caregivers perform these medical/nursing tasks. This usually happens with little or no training beforehand. To quote Gail Hunt, former President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving,
“This is an exploitation issue. The family caregiver is doing this for free and is being really exploited, with more and more being expected from them in terms of performing nursing and medical tasks in the home, such as giving injections. The physical, emotional, spiritual and financial toll that it takes is well documented in many studies. Many caregivers die before their care receiver, largely in part to the stresses involved with caregiving and self-neglect.”
This rapidly growing demographic in our nation has to become a priority. Legislation needs to be passed to give caregivers a tax break, Social Security credits for caregiving, a stipend for the care they provide, and provide paid in home assistance.
Paid Family Medical Leave (Finally?)
Our nation is finally looking at the concept of Paid Family Medical Leave. (A Senate hearing on this was held recently.) The care caregivers provide is valued at $522 billion a year according to a 2014 Rand Corporation study. That is more than our national Medicaid budget. Family caregivers are truly the backbone of our long term care system. It’s time we have much more real conversations about this at a national level.
The care caregivers provide is valued at $522 billion a year
We addressed the concerns of child care in the eighties when scores of women re-entered or entered the work force. Elder care must become “the child care of the eighties,” for the sake of the patient, the caregiver, and the thousands of companies who employ caregivers. It is a corporate issue as well as a societal one.
For my part, I am going to continue to advocate for caregivers everywhere and do my part to make this topic more visible and a topic of national concern.
Authored by Toula Wootan, who has been working in the health care communities in Jacksonville, Florida since 1979. She has a Masters in Health Science from the University of North Florida. Her radio show, “Toula’s Tips for Caregivers” airs Saturdays at 11:00 AM Eastern on The Whole Care Network by clicking here!
Learn more about Toula in her new book, “Love Stories and Timeless Tips” (Available on Amazon.) It is the first of a new series, “Conversations on Caregiving” and where she shares the best of her radio shows. In each chapter, her guests tell their touching stories about caring for their loved ones, and the lessons they learned. Every story gives wonderful advice, support, and inspiration to help you in your role as a caregiver.