November is National Family Caregivers Month, which honors those whose invaluable contributions allow older Wisconsinites to age in place in their homes.
And efforts are underway to develop measures that can better support caregivers every month of the year.
There are 578,000 unpaid caregivers in Wisconsin, who Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, says often put their own needs on the back burner in order to look after a parent, spouse or friend.
And she says that includes opening their own wallets.
“A person is spending about $7,000 on supplemental things that they provide for the person they’re caring for,” she points out. “And that includes medication, insurance, so there’s both a financial burden and a time burden.”
Dicks says AARP is working with state lawmakers to introduce a Caregiver Tax Credit in 2019, which would reimburse family caregivers up to $1,000 for their documented costs.
According to an AARP study, 78 percent of caregivers spend their own money to help family members or loved ones stay in their homes.
Advocates are also promoting the CARE Act, which has been passed in more than two dozen states.
Dicks explains it would improve the quality of care and reduce hospital readmissions by requiring training for caregivers when a loved one is discharged from a medical facility.
“Family caregivers are now doing wound care, they’re doing medication management, they’re doing feeding tubes, all kinds of things that don’t just come naturally to you, that you need to have some training to get done and done right,” she points out.
Dicks contends these measures are important for communities and the state.
As the population ages, she says supports for caregivers can help people age in their homes, and be less reliant on government funded programs and long-term care services.
“Even in a workplace people are stressed out because of caregiving responsibilities,” she states. “And they now say that one-in-four millennials are actually in the caregiving roles in their families. So that’s an incredible number of people of all ages caring for family and friends.”
The unpaid labor of the nation’s 40 million caregivers is valued at $470 billion annually.