Tuesday, August 02, 2011

New Study says Family Caregivers are undervalued

I doubt if there are any family caregivers or recipients out there that will be surprised by the findings of a new study done by AARP's Public Policy Institute that found that, were family caregivers in just Connecticut had been paid for their work as caregivers for 2009, they would have made around... $8,150 each.

Now mind you, that is 711,000 unpaid caregivers in JUST Connecticut that are providing care to a parent, family member or friend. Nationwide the report determined that family caregivers providing care to their loved ones in 2009 lost an estimated $450 billion dollars in income.

In 2009 the estimated value per hour for care was calculated by AARP to be $11.16 an hour. This is what a stranger would have been paid to provide the same services for one hour. I know that when I took care of my father, I would have accepted $5 an hour for the hours that I provided caregiver assistance to him - but as his daughter, it was assumed by every agency and medical provider I spoke to that I would just provide care to him for no compensation - despite the fact that they would have paid a stranger to care for him. Something that both him and my mother did not want.

Thankfully, my father was a 21 year veteran of the Army and had attained full Social Security benefits by the time he retired, so by the time him and my mom required care they owned their own house where I was able to live with them, supplementing their income through my work as a freelance writer.

Not all family caregivers have the same situation I had, far too many are attempting to care for a loved one, often one that has significant special needs, who has little or no disability or Social Security benefits, on what income the care provider can manage to make in their part time. On that small income they are attempting to provide for their family, pay a mortgage or rent, and still keep the bills paid. It is an impossible task that leaves people that had thought they had saved for their future slipping slowly toward debt.

In an article at ctpost.com, Brenda Kelley, the State director of AARP Connecticut, is quoted as saying:
"If the caregivers in this country fell apart, then our long-term care system would fall apart -- because, that is our long-term care system,"

And yet,companies such as Johnson & Johnson focus their kudos on those in the nursing career. After having been a family caregiver, I consider the unpaid caregivers to be the real heroes of the care system.

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