More than ever, family members and friends are taking on the role of caregiver for loved ones who have a disability or chronic condition.
About 53 million people in the U.S., or 1 in 5, currently take on that role. According to a new study from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, that’s a big jump from 2015, increasing by 9.5 million people.
They do everything from helping with shopping to providing baths and medications.
“They are the backbone of the health and long-term care systems. We would be in terrible shape if family caregivers walked off the job. All of us or most of us are going to need a family caregiver or be a family caregiver at some point in our lives,” said Susan Reinhard, SVP of the Public Policy Institute at AARP.
Reinhard says about 60% of caretakers have another job that they’re trying to juggle along with providing an average of 24 hours of care a week.
About 1 in 5 do even more, providing 40 hours or more a week, which is equivalent to a full-time, unpaid job.
That can create a lot of challenges, such as impacting the caregiver’s own health.
“About 1 in 4 family caregivers are saying they really don’t have the time. They’re not taking good care of themselves and the same proportion are saying care giving has negatively affected their health, that they have poor health,” said Reinhard.
It’s also hurting many financially. Reinhard says about half say being a caregiver has impacted their finances by taking on debt, dipping into savings or just not being able to save much.
Those challenge are just made worse by the pandemic.
Grace Whiting, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, says coronavirus legislation doesn’t help caregivers or extend job protection to them.
“You could get paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus [Response] Act if you’re caring for someone with COVID, but if you’re caring for someone else, say a friend who has dementia and you no longer have a dependent care provider like a home care worker and now you’re working from home and you’re juggling all this, you don’t get the same protection,” said Whiting.
For family caregivers who are struggling right now, there are a number of resources that could help you.
AARP has several articles on various topics as well as a caregivers Facebook support group and free support line. You can access all of them by clicking here.
The National Alliance for Caregiving also has a number of resources and programs that could help by clicking here.