Since 2014, AARP has worked diligently to support Americans of all ages who help care for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones. This initiative is even more important during the coronavirus pandemic, which has created new challenges for American families and put a spotlight on issues that millions have wrestled with for years.
Pre-COVID, there were 48 million family caregivers across the country. Then, according to a Genworth study, one in three Americans became caregivers practically overnight . . .carving out time to care for children who can’t go to school or daycare, older family members who now need extra help, or dependents of front-line workers. And, in a big change from what we’ve seen in the past, they are identifying as caregivers, and they are being open about the difficulties they face.
Whatever someone’s caregiving journey, AARP is there as both a fierce defender and wise friend to help make their big responsibilities a little bit easier.
Here are five essential ways that AARP is helping support family caregivers:
- Information and Resources: Family caregivers take on so many different responsibilities. Figuring out where to start or how to change gears when their loved ones’ needs evolve can be overwhelming. That’s why AARP provides a range of resources on it’s online caregiving hub – from our Prepare to Care guides that help families get their arms around what they need to think about and do to targeted information on handling financial and legal issues, medication management, respite care, and more. There’s even a tool to search for local caregiving resources and solutions. And, recognizing that the pandemic is making the challenges of caregiving even more stressful, there is helpful information at www.aarp.org/mentalhealth.
- Interactive Events and Training Tools: In addition to these articles, checklists and toolkits, AARP hosts interactive events (virtually during COVID), online forums and webinars covering topics like protecting loved ones from financial fraud, making a home safer for older adults, and understanding Medicare. Our ongoing tele-town halls offer insights from health care experts on common questions caregivers face during the coronavirus pandemic. And, through our Home Alone Alliance partnership, we offer a series of “how to” videos to help family caregivers with specific medical and nursing tasks, including operating specialized medical equipment, preparing meals for special dietary needs, wound care and managing medications.
- Community: AARP also offers opportunities for caregivers to connect with each other, share tips and experiences, and give and get support through platforms like our online caregiving forum and our Facebook Family Caregivers Discussion Group.
- Employer Resources: Since approximately 60% of America’s 48 million family caregivers are in the paid workforce, employers can play an important role helping them balance their responsibilities. To encourage the adoption of caregiver-friendly workplace policies, AARP has developed a number of tools for employers, including a comprehensive guide complete with practical tips, checklists and handouts; one designed specifically for small businesses; a resource for supporting military and veteran caregivers in the workplace along with free training tools for managers; and other action-oriented materials.
- Advocacy: AARP fights for policies to support family caregivers at the federal, state, and local levels. On Capitol Hill, we successfully advocated for passage of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which created a national family caregiver advisory council, and we fought for years to make the medical expense tax deduction permanent. This vital measure to provide financial relief to families with high healthcare costs has now been signed into law. At the state level, we have helped secure passage of hundreds of pieces of legislation, including laws requiring hospitals to provide instructions to caregivers when a loved one is discharged, expanding or protecting respite care, and much more. (Want to get involved in our advocacy efforts? Sign up here to become an AARP activist.)
In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic has served as a much-needed wake-up call, alerting the nation that family caregivers need more support from employers, the government, health care systems, and other sectors of our society. After all, these challenges won’t go away once the pandemic ends. That’s why AARP will continue to provide a strong voice in our advocacy on these issues and a steady hand in helping family caregivers manage this labor of love.