AARP Eye Center
The challenges of being a family caregiver have generally been viewed as a private, personal matter. But in a noteworthy shift, a new report to Congress lays the groundwork for a much-needed national strategy to assist the over 48 million Americans who care for a parent, spouse or other loved one.
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Family caregivers provide an immense contribution, often at significant personal cost and with little guidance. Experts have estimated the value of their unpaid services at $470 billion — almost half a trillion dollars. These folks provide in-home medical care and perform nursing tasks, on top of a wide range of duties that include personal care, household chores, coordinating appointments, transportation, meal preparation, shopping — you name it. And that’s not all: 6 in 10 family caregivers also hold down jobs outside the home.
Yet their dedication often leads to burnout, financial loss and social isolation. But there are steps that political leaders can take to support them. For example, AARP worked on a bipartisan, bicameral basis with leaders in Congress to create the Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus in 2015, to bring greater attention to family caregiving and helping people live independently, to educate Congress on these issues and to engage legislators on a bipartisan basis to help lead to solutions. AARP also strongly advocated for and led a group of national organizations supporting the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, introduced by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), along with former Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and current Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.). The new report from the Family Caregiving Advisory Council brought together by RAISE spotlights a national approach to recognizing caregivers’ critical role.
The report lays out the following five overarching goals to guide policies to improve the lives of family caregivers and their loved ones.