They’re the ones standing in front of you in line, calling someone else’s physician to double check the accuracy of the dosage printed on the prescription. They work in your office, rushing in late to a meeting after driving Mom back from the doctor’s office because she can no longer drive herself. They stay late at your older neighbor’s home to make sure that he eats a proper meal and gets out of the shower safely after he tripped down the stairs and broke his hip three weeks ago.
They are the family caregivers at the foundation of our social support system, working behind the scenes to provide $375 billion of uncompensated care each year. Many, however, experience unprecedented strains when caring for their loved ones. Numerous studies have found that family caregivers suffer from higher levels of stress and depression compared to noncaregivers. Caregivers have lower levels of subjective well-being and physical health than noncaregivers. In 2005, caregivers reported chronic conditions (including heart attack/ heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis) at nearly twice the rate of noncaregivers (45% versus 24%)
In 2009, more than three in ten U.S households (31%) reported that at least one person served as an unpaid family caregiver in the previous 12 months. More than three-quarters (78%) of American adults age 18 and older who receive long-term care at home rely exclusively on family caregivers. State caregiver resource centers enable caregivers to. While about 13 million adults in the U.S. (over half of whom were 65 years or older) needed long-term care services in 2000, by 2050 that number is expected to rise to 27 million.
What can we do as friends, family, and to support the caregivers in our lives?
The Family Caregiver Alliance and the National Center for Caregiving have blogged about the impact of budget cuts on state caregiver support programs here. Here are some of their key talking points:
What’s the impact of budget cuts on programs serving caregivers and older adults?
Going into 2010, 23 states made cuts in services to older and/or disabled adults, including medical, rehabilitative, home care, day care and other needed services, and 21 states made cuts to health care programs.
What do these funds provide?
National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), appropriated under Title IIIE of the Older Americans Act, provides funds to state and local Area Agencies on Aging making a 25% funds match. This funding allows your local caregiver agencies and nonprofits to provide information, supportive services (such as individual counseling, respite care, and caregiver training) and referrals to family caregivers.
Why are these programs important?
States must invest in family caregivers’ well-being so they can remain in their caregiving role. Given the millions of dollars caregivers save states by providing uncompensated care and by helping to delay or prevent costly residential care, it is incumbent on states to spend a fraction of that savings to provide caregivers with needed support and services so they don’t burn out.
• In a 2005 survey of caregivers who received NFCSP services, over half of those surveyed (54%) said that caregiver support services enabled the care recipient to live at home for a longer period of time.
When caring for friends and family members at home, family caregivers are saving states money on costly residential services.
• States spent an average of $26,096 per Medicaid beneficiary living in a nursing facility in 2005, compared to $9,459 per Medicaid beneficiary receiving home and community-based services
The more financial and emotional stress caregivers experience as a result of the recession—coupled with a reduction in caregiver support services—the more likely they and their care recipients are to need other public safety net programs.
• According to a study published by the Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “caregiver stress is an important and highly significant predictor of nursing home entry.”17
• Care recipients are now worse off, receiving less financial help from their caregivers. A 2009 survey of caregivers found that, in this recession, a smaller share of low-income caregivers (those with household incomes less than $25,000) now help pay for their care recipient’s basic necessities (57% prior to the downturn vs. 44% now).
Caregiver support programs provide family caregivers with services that can help reduce their stress, improve their well-being and assist them in their caregiving role.
• A 2005 survey of caregivers who received NFCSP services revealed that “caregiver support services affected the lives of caregivers and care recipients in meaningful and diverse ways.” More than three out of four (77%) caregivers reported that the support services they received helped them to better understand how to obtain resources and how to feel less stress associated with their role.
What’s the impact on caregivers in your community?
“Across the country, budgets for publicly funded caregiver support programs are among those not only reduced, but threatened with further cuts or elimination as state revenues continue to drop. These cuts could undo years of hard work establishing programs that focus on the health and well-being of family caregivers and their capacity to provide quality long-term care to their loved ones.
Without action from advocates, service providers and program administrators in state capitals—and without caregivers raising their voices in protest—lawmakers will see caregiver support programs as easy targets and they will cut funding so desperately needed to serve caregiving families.”
How can I help?
Subscribe to the Family Caregiver Alliance digest here to stay in the loop about budget and policy trends affecting caregivers in your community.
Note: all information is taken from Making the Case: Saving Your State’s Caregiver Support Programs issued by the Family Caregiver Alliance.