Some Caregivers Feel Left Out Of Coronavirus Conversation

May 15, 2020
Originally published on May 15, 2020 6:31 am

Coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes across the country are prompting conversations about whether more people will care for loved ones at home.

But some caregiver groups feel like they’re being left out of the conversation and support bills.

According to a new report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, the number of family caregivers in the United States has already increased 9.5 million from 2015 to 2020, or about one in five Americans.

That number could rise even more as families re-consider long-term care facilities for their loved ones after coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes across the country.

Grace Whiting, the president of the National Alliance for Caregiving, said the pandemic is exacerbating the challenges facing caregivers, including financial strain and emotional burnout.

"I think the pandemic presents an opportunity for us to really make the case that caregivers are the backbone of our long-term care system, our health care system and our social care system,” Whiting said. “And they need help."

The new study says family caregivers are in worse health compared to five years ago, and that personal finances are a concern for family caregivers - 28% have stopped saving, 23% have taken on more debt and 22% have used up personal short-term savings.

The first federal coronavirus bill, the CARES Act, included money for the National Family Caregiver Support Program, but Whiting said the second one, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, only created more paid leave and paid family medical leave for caregivers responsible for someone with COVID-19.

“I would say this pandemic really shines a light on the way we think about families and supporting them,” Whiting said.

“If we're going to ask 53 million Americans to take on those responsibilities, we have to support them. We have to make sure that they get access to information and support services and training that they need and that we really recognize and honor the work that they're doing.”

Other highlights from the report, which you can read in full here:

  • While caregiving spans all generations, more young people are providing care, including 6% who are Gen Z and 23% who are Millennials.
  • Caregiving is complex - 26% say it is difficult to coordinate care in 2020, up from 19% in 2015.
  • Compared to 2015, a greater proportion of caregivers of adults are providing care to multiple people now, with 24% caring for two or more recipients.
  • 61% of caregivers are women, and the caregivers’ average age is 49.4 years old. 61% non-Hispanic White, 17% are Latinx/Hispanic, and 14%  are non-Hispanic African American or Black.
  • 11% of caretakers are students enrolled in college or other classes, while 9% have served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. 8% self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
  • Caregivers report physical, emotional, and financial strain, with 21% reporting they feel alone.
  • When compared to 2015, fewer caregivers report their health status as excellent or very good (41%, down from 48% in 2015) and a greater proportion report being in fair or poor health (21%, up from 17% in 2015). 23% find it difficult to take care of their own health, and 23% report caregiving has made their own health worse.

AARP has created a guide for caregivers worried about coronavirus exposure, which you can find here.