My neighbor, Leslie, is one of those amazing women of the “sandwich” generation. She parents two young girls and her mother lives with her as well. According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. I would love to bring them all a bundle of flowers in gratitude!
Leslie and I found some time to chat the other day and the challenges of her particular situation came up. She spoke about the significant emotional cost associated with a being full-time caregiver and also mentioned the financial challenges she faces. Leslie then made a point that I felt was immensely valid! She wanted to know why she was able to check a box on her IRS tax form to identify her children as dependents but could not do the same for her mother. A few states do have programs to help financially support those people who care for their loved ones, after all, this service is helping to offset the burden of federal and state funded programs, i.e. Medicaid. Yet, these supportive programs for caregivers are still rare.
65 Million Unpaid Family Caregivers
I believe this conversation needs much more attention, so let’s put it on the table. The data shows the number of unpaid family caregivers is over 65 million and rising! And as AARP so eloquently states, “Family support is a key driver in remaining in one’s home and in the community, but it comes at substantial costs to the caregivers themselves, to their families, and to society. If family caregivers were no longer available, the economic cost to the U.S. health care and long-term services and supports (LTSS) systems would increase astronomically.”
How do we value the unpaid family caregivers in our communities?
As a caregiver, wouldn’t you like to be compensated for at a least part of the financial cost of this obligation?