Celebrate National Caregivers Day By Giving Them Some Care

February 16th, 2017 by Attorney Roger Weinberg

February 17 is National Caregivers Day, a day to remember and honor all those who care for people who are too disabled by age, disease or physical condition to care for themselves. In addition to professionals (who are paid not nearly enough in most cases), there are the friends, family members and relatives across Maryland who make life livable for those truly in need.

Caregivers are taken for granted by our society. They are critical to the care of millions of Americans; but often, because of the time and effort they spend on others, they need care themselves. Their finances and health suffer. They must juggle caring for family members and jobs, often neglecting their own needs in the process. Because of the aging of our population, this is a situation that’s going to be increasingly untenable for our country.

An opinion piece in the New York Times, citing the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, provides the following information:

  • The average family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for an older relative.
  • Nearly a quarter of caregivers are millennials, and they are about equally split between men and women.
  • About a third of caregivers work full-time, and one-fourth work part-time.
  • One-third provide more than 21 hours of care per week.
  • Family caregivers are usually unpaid, but the economic value of their work is estimated at about $470 billion a year — about what the U.S. spends on Medicaid each year.
  • 60% of those caring for older family members state they have had to cut back the hours they work, take a leave of absence or make other career changes. Half report they’ve started work late or had to leave early because of their caregiving duties.
  • About 20% report significant financial troubles. Family caregivers older than 50 who quit their jobs lose, on average, more than $300,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetimes.
  • The finding of one study was that caregivers who experience mental or emotional stress while caring for a disabled spouse were 63% more likely to die within four years than non-caregivers.
  • Another study found long-term caregivers have suppressed immune systems (often a side effect of stress) for up to three years after they stopped.
  • Caregivers of patients who have had long stays in an I.C.U. have high levels of depressive symptoms that can last for more than a year.

During the presidential election, attention was given to the fact that, although the unemployment rate is relatively low, there are many people in their prime working ages who have dropped out of the workforce. Competition from foreign companies, increased automation and drug use have been blamed for males’ no longer seeking work. But for women, much of the reason for their disappearance from the workforce is that they are caregivers for family members, both young and old, according to the New York Times.

Women are participating in the work force at a greater rate in almost every developed nation from 2000 to 2015, but their participation has dropped in the U.S. One reason may be the lack of employee-friendly family support policies (such as paid time off to care for family members) common in European countries. Another reason may be the high cost of long term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Our reliance on this unpaid workforce is not sustainable according to a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

  • The need for caregivers is increasing due to longer lives and more complex medical care while the supply of potential caregivers is shrinking, because of lower marriage rates, smaller families and greater geographic separation of family members.
  • In 2015, there were seven potential family caregivers for every person over 80. By 2030, this ratio may drop to four-to-one and by 2050 decrease to three potential caregivers for every older American.

With fewer unpaid caregivers available over time there will be a greater need for paid caregivers, either at home or at nursing homes or assisted living facilities. This increasing influx of residents into a system already plagued by lack of resources, neglect and abuse is not good news for those of us working now but who will need care in the future.

If you or a loved in a Maryland nursing home or assisted living facility has suffered neglect or abuse, we can help you address the situation and seek compensation. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 1-866-529-5839 today to schedule a free consultation.

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