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As population ages, need for more caregivers

Written by Diane Archer

Today, about one in 12 people over 20, nearly 18 million people, provide care for an older family member with health issues. A new report, Families Caring for an Aging America, by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, finds that by 2030, as our population ages, there will be a need for more caregivers. Will we have systems in place to support these caregivers and permit them to continue to meet the needs of older adults?

By 2030, more than 70 million Americans will be over 65– about 20 percent of the population.  And, they will continue to need help with long-term care services and supports. But, the pool of  caregivers is shrinking as an increasing number of older adults are childless, single or live far from their children. Moreover, more women than ever are working, depend on that income, and do not have the flexibility to juggle work, kids, and caregiving for the older adults in their lives.

While many family caregivers of older adults report tremendous benefits from caregiving, they are also more prone to depression, anxiety and stress than non-family caregivers. They are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions. And, they are prone to economic hardship. Half of all caregivers spend more than five years delivering care to an older adult. For caregivers over 50, lost work income and benefits are estimated to be $303,880and that does not include lower Social Security benefits.

The report assesses the needs of family caregivers looking after older adults and how well they are supported today. It further considers how new policies could better serve these family caregivers.

Sixteen years ago, Congress created the National Family Caregiver Support Program, under the Administration on Aging, which explicitly addresses the needs of people caring for older adults. The NFCSP provides information, assistance in securing services, individual counseling for caregivers as well as education and support groups, respite services and supplemental services. All caregivers over 60 are eligible as well as caregivers caring for people over 60. However, Congress only appropriated $150 million for services

What’s crystal clear is that Congress needs to allocate more resources to better support caregivers and older adults in their communities. New programs and services must be developed that are accessible and affordable. You can support family caregivers by clicking here.

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