Alleviating Caregiver Stress
Preventing caregivers from being overwhelmed is essential for both economic and ethical reasons. Examples of policies that could be implemented at small fractions of the value of unpaid caregivers' services include:
- Expand funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Total funding for that program for FY 2007 represents about one twentieth of 1 percent of the value of informal caregivers' contributions.
- Provide adequate funding for the recently enacted Lifespan Respite Care Act. The amount authorized for FY 2008 is $40 million, or about one hundredth of 1 percent of the value of caregivers' contributions.
- Provide a tax credit for caregiving. A $3,000 tax credit, the amount that would be provided as part of several federal legislative proposals, would help to offset some of the direct expenses of eligible caregivers. Many of these caregivers would still bear high costs associated with caregiving, including lost wages and employment benefits, lower retirement benefits, poorer health status, and higher medical expenses of their own.
Providing better supports for family caregivers is essential to the well-being of our health care system, our long-term care system, and our economy.
1 This definition includes the majority of caregiving, but it does not capture all of the informal caregiving that occurs in the United States. For example, it does not include those providing care to children under 18 with disabilities, caregivers under age 18 who are providing care to adults (primarily parents or grandparents), or grandparents providing care for grandchildren under the age of 18. Nor does it include caregivers who provide assistance to adults who have chronic health conditions but do not need assistance with daily activities such as bathing and dressing.
2 These surveys varied in the years they were conducted, the definitions of caregiving, and the age groups represented. We therefore adjusted estimates of the prevalence of caregiving to a common definition encompassing the entire adult population. Please see the full paper for the complete methodology.
*This In Brief summarizes the findings of the AARP Public Policy Institute Issue Brief Valuing the Invaluable: A New Look at the Economic Value of Family Caregiving
Written by Mary Jo Gibson and Ari Houser, AARP Public Policy Institute
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