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AARP Totals Dollars and Cents of Family Caregiving

AARP's Public Policy Institute estimates the national value of unpaid family care for loved ones rivals the $469 billion annual sales of the four major tech companies combined. Credit: Chris Kirzeder/Alzheimer's Association.
AARP's Public Policy Institute estimates the national value of unpaid family care for loved ones rivals the $469 billion annual sales of the four major tech companies combined. Credit: Chris Kirzeder/Alzheimer's Association.
July 16, 2015

SEATTLE - Nearly 20 percent of people over age 25 juggle jobs while they provide care for a family member who is older or has a disability.

AARP's new report on family caregiving outlines caregivers' health and career challenges. It says more than half of caregivers surveyed feel "overwhelmed" by their responsibilities.

At the Area Agency on Aging that serves Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties, access supervisor John McBride says help is available but often, families dealing with such conditions as dementia are too tired, depressed or embarrassed to reach out.

"That's the tragedy," says McBride. "Statistically right now, people come to our services after five years of being a caregiver. You've got to get connected to the community; you've got to include your family and friends. You've got to just put yourself out there."

McBride says Washington's Area Agencies on Aging use a thorough quiz known as T-Care to pinpoint caregivers' needs and then work to pair them up with resources. It's estimated that 828,000 Washingtonians are unpaid caregivers for family members - care the report says is valued at more than $10 billion a year.

The governor's recommendation of $19 million for caregiver supports didn't make it into the final budget. Lawmakers also didn't pass a couple of bills aimed at helping family caregivers.

But Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director for AARP Washington, says they're at least talking about topics such as expanding paid "sick-and-safe" leave for workers.

"Broadening the definition of who can actually be cared for using the paid sick and safe leave," she explains. "And then, the second one was focused in on family medical leave insurance, to really help address some of the financial challenges that caregivers often face."

MacCaul predicts the proposals will come up again next year.

The AARP report, "Valuing the Invaluable," says 38 percent of family caregivers experience some financial strain in providing care, and three in 10 are giving direct financial support to their older relatives.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA