More younger people than ever are playing the role of caregiver for an aging parent or family member.
The number of caregivers has increased over the last five years by 9.5 million, making it now one in five Americans, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
Adding to the stress is that many of the people they are taking care of are also in worse health today, causing extra financial and psychological strain.
“They don’t get to take a break,” said Susan Reinhard, Senior VP at AARP and Director of its Public Policy Institute. “This is a continual stress they have. Half of them are feeling a lot of meaning in what they do. It’s not that they don’t want to give the care, but it can be all consuming for those that have great needs.”
That was pre-COVID-19, so that stress is exacerbated now.
While there has been some progress in policy, like expanded access to paid family and sick leave, the Families First Coronavirus Act only gave paid leave protection to those caring for someone with COVID-19.
The groups also want more inclusivity for caregivers making health decisions.
“We know if you are caring for children or someone pregnant, you can be there by the bedside even in light of COVID-19, but many caregivers are finding barriers particularly in dementia and other conditions where they are trying to be that partner in care to engage in decision-making and they're finding that the doors are closed to them,” said C. Grace Whiting, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving.
AARP.com/caregiving has resources for caregivers, including online support groups and a hotline. They are also addressing coronavirus concerns about nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.