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Family Caregivers Overwhelmed by Caregiving Responsibilities

  • Published: 2014-09-29 (Revised/Updated 2016-04-08) : Author: AARP New York : Contact:
  • Synopsis: An estimated 4.1 million family caregivers provide the equivalent of $32 billion of care annually in New York state.

The family caregivers who save New York taxpayers billions of dollars a year by caring for the state's frail and elderly at home are overwhelmed financially and emotionally and are looking to candidates for help.

That's the upshot of a new statewide AARP survey.

Half of New York voters 50 and older are or have been family caregivers in the past five years - and that number is expected to increase as the population continues aging, the survey of New York's most powerful voting demographic found.

More than half of survey respondents - 53 percent - said they're "very" or "extremely" likely to be family caregivers in the next five years. Add in those who say they're "somewhat likely" and the number jumps to two thirds (66 percent).

The survey results are in line with a 2011 MetLife study that found the number of Baby Boomers and other adult children caring for a parent has more than tripled in the last 15 years.

Family caregiving takes its toll emotionally, physically and financially; the survey showed that 85 percent of family caregivers reported strain on their quality of life, with more than half - 55 percent - citing "overwhelming" or "a good deal of" strain.

Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of working family caregivers said they've had to go to work late, leave early or take time off during the day to provide care. Many have paid a financial price by going from full-time to part-time work (17 percent), taking a leave of absence (27 percent), giving up working or taking an early retirement (13 percent), or losing job benefits (11 percent). "The strain and demands on New York's four million family caregivers is a problem that's not going away - in fact, it's getting worse," said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State. "This issue goes deep for Baby Boomers and others trying to balance caring for an aging loved one with work and their own families. The 50+ clearly want candidates who will support them in this compassionate and ultimately cost-saving - but highly stressful - labor of love."

The 50+ - who voted at nearly twice the rate of 18- to 49-year-olds in the last gubernatorial election in 2010 - are looking for help from their elected officials.

More than three quarters (76 percent) said they're "extremely" or "very" likely to vote for candidates who support family caregivers.

And an astounding 92 percent support a key AARP state legislative initiative aimed at ensuring family caregivers are adequately prepared to provide care after their loved one goes home from the hospital -requiring hospitals to provide caregivers with live demonstrations of medical and nursing tasks prior to the patient's discharge. That's the central element of the CARE Act (Caregiver Advise Record Enable).

An estimated 4.1 million family caregivers provide the equivalent of $32 billion of care annually in New York state.

Caregiver burnout is a leading cause of nursing home placements, which drive the elderly and frail from their homes and cost taxpayers far more through Medicaid than would non-medical, home-based services.

The 2014 - 15 State Budget increased funding for such services by $5 million. That's a start, but far less than the $26 million AARP recommended last year to eliminate waiting lists.

The need is only expected to grow; a recent AARP report found that while there were 6.6 potential caregivers aged 45 to 64 for every person in the high-risk years of 80+ in New York in 2010, there will only be 4.8 in 2030 and 3.5 in 2050.

AARP is targeting family caregiving this week as part of its effort to focus candidates' attention on issues critical to New York's 50+ population, which accounted for 58 percent of all votes cast four years ago despite making up less than 44 percent of the voting-age population.

Family caregivers provide unpaid care for an adult relative, spouse or friend who is ill, frail, elderly or disabled, such as giving medications or wound care, helping with transportation or household chores, and calling doctors and managing finances.

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