More than 41 million adults in the United States care for a family member with a chronic illness or disability — a collective effort that, in 2017, represented 34 billion hours of unpaid labor worth $470 billion.
Many family caregivers struggle to balance their responsibilities at home with their lives outside of caregiving. Physical, emotional, and financial struggles are well documented.
“The demands on family caregivers are not just a family issue,” said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president at AARP’s Public Policy Institute, in a statement. “We must continue to push for meaningful support and solutions.”
Family caregivers help with a wide range of activities, including feeding and bathing, or helping to pay bills or go to medical appointments. Increasingly, their responsibilities include complex medical tasks, that many are not trained to perform.
Nearly all older adults need assistance at some time, and almost two-thirds rely on a family caregiver alone. Family caregivers are increasingly diverse, racially and ethnically, and getting younger: about 25 percent of family caregivers are millennials. Forty percent are men.
As the population ages, the demand for family care is expected to grow significantly. Many American families can not afford to pay for a home health aide or assisted living community. At the same time families are smaller than in previous generations and living farther apart, limiting the number of available family caregivers.
The report recommends a national strategy for policy makers and employers to latch onto that includes financial support and services for family caregivers.
Ahmari Anthony is a student at Howard University, born and raised in Pittsburgh. She is passionate about media and the arts, community and social justice work, and making education more individualized and accessible.