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Family Caregivers Need More Support

More than 40 million Americans care for older parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities or other loved ones, helping them to live independently in their homes and communities — where they want to be.

AARP advocates for family caregivers — and the loved ones who count on them — on Capitol Hill and in state capitals across the country. This year, AARP fought successfully to enact the federal bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, which creates a multidisciplinary task force to recommend how to provide better, more coordinated support for America’s family caregivers.

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At the state level, AARP state offices have worked to pass hundreds of new laws to provide family caregivers access to care at home, workplace flexibility, training, relief and much more. In addition, in about 40 states and territories, the AARP-authored CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act is now law, supporting family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.

Challenges Ahead

The unpaid assistance America’s family caregivers provide — valued at about $470 billion annually — ranges from bathing and dressing to transportation and complex medical tasks. They are the first line of assistance for older Americans and people with disabilities, helping to delay and prevent more costly nursing home care and unnecessary hospitalizations, saving taxpayer dollars.

Family caregivers are the backbone of America’s care system, yet they continue to face physical, emotional and financial challenges as they care for loved ones. Most juggle caregiving duties while also working full- or part-time jobs. They also use on average about 20 percent of their own income, about $7,000 a year, on necessities like home modifications, assistive technology and adult day care. Some are still raising their own families.

Family caregivers will only face greater strains in the future as the number of potential family caregivers per loved one in need of assistance shrinks. In 2010, the caregiver support ratio was about seven potential caregivers for every person 80 or older. By 2030, this ratio is projected to decline sharply to 4 to 1; by 2050, less than 3 to 1.

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AARP Guiding Principles

As you consider a candidate, keep in mind AARP’s guiding principles on advancing policies to support family caregivers:

  • Helping family caregivers navigate financial challenges. This includes updating state guardianship laws and passing the Uniform Power of Attorney Act in states, as well as a modest tax credit for caregivers.
  • Protecting and increasing access to care at home and in the community.
  • Breaking down the barriers that prevent  use  of telehealth, including access to the technology that can help family caregivers manage their own or their loved one’s health.
  • Helping family caregivers balance responsibilities at home and work through paid and unpaid leave policies.
  • Modernizing laws to allow nurse practitioners and all advanced practice registered nurses to provide the quality health care that patients and their family caregivers depend on. And allow nurses to delegate authority for certain tasks to trained home care professionals, as opposed to only family caregivers.
  • Expanding respite care services that allow family caregivers to take a hard-earned break.

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