The United States is getting closer to a caregiver cliff as demand for long-term care services grows while the supply of those who can provide that care diminishes, writes the Washington Post.
President Obama during his January State of the Union address called the nation’s millions of family caregivers “humble heroes.” AARP valued unpaid family caregiving at approximately $450 billion a year in 2009.
Almost 40% of American adults identified themselves as family caregivers in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, providing long-term care or other care services to loved ones with Alzheimer’s, autism, or a range of other needs. Demand for such care is growing as the United States’ senior population grows, the article notes.
“We are heading toward the caregiving cliff,” John Schall, chief executive of the Caregiver Action Network, told the Washington Post. “Family caregivers are the backbone of long-term care services in this country, and I’m concerned that we won’t have the capacity to meet the demand, especially as the country ages.”
The article highlights three instances of family caregiving: parents caring for their autistic children; husbands or wives attending to spouses with early-onset memory impairments; and youth caregivers who look after siblings.
The number of caregivers needed in the nation will only increase, says the Washington Post, but as boomers head into retirement age, there are fewer caregivers available.
Families will increasingly be expected to shoulder caregiving responsibilities, and to help, some legislation has been introduced that would provide several weeks of paid family and medical leave each year to provide partial wage replacement for working caregivers, the article says.
“This law is absolutely needed—it’s just the right approach—but given the current climate, I wouldn’t give it great odds,” Schall said.
Schall floated the idea of a “caregiver corps” that could recruit recent college grads by offering debt forgiveness, or older adults looking for something to do in retirement.
“It may be time for a bold idea,” he told the Washington Post.
Written by Alyssa Gerace