Caregiving is in crisis for low-income caregivers. Family and friends who provide help with daily tasks for anyone with complex health needs or decreased mobility face high demands and are in short supply. This work is largely unpaid and unseen, and families are left to fend for themselves with few options to ease their caregiving duties.
A report published in May by National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP reveals gaps in U.S. caregiving, especially when it comes to low-income caregivers. This gap is expanding as the aging segment of the U.S. population rises.
The pandemic has revealed weaknesses in our supports at home, impacting access to services and personal cash flow and decreasing direct caregiving due to social distancing. America must do better by our caregivers through paid leave, healthcare and other critical resources.
Low-income caregivers often can’t take paid sick leave and can’t telecommute. Only 53 percent and 22 percent of caretakers, respectively, report having those options. Additionally, more than half report making a change to their work hours to take care of their loved ones.
First, we must ensure all jobs offer appropriate leave and support for their workers. Seventy percent of caregivers face work-related difficulties because they care for others.
Second, we must increase the support offered to caregivers to fulfill caregiving tasks. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a monthly stipend to some caregivers, and some state Medicaid programs offer flexibility in using Medicaid dollars for caregiving.
Third, low-income caregivers need more effective healthcare for themselves through flexible plans that better cover costs of off-hours care. They also need plans with enhanced care coordination taken on by the insurer.
The job of caregiving is too big and draining for one person, and low-income people are more likely to be lone caregivers. Unmet health and social needs for low-income caregivers lead to a bigger problem: Who will take care of the caregivers and those they assist?