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Minnesota's Invisible Workforce: 600,000 Family Caregivers

The work being done by Minnesota's unpaid family caregivers is valued at nearly $8 billion a year. Credit: Fred Froese.
The work being done by Minnesota's unpaid family caregivers is valued at nearly $8 billion a year. Credit: Fred Froese.
July 16, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – There's still much to be done, but Minnesota is among a handful of states making progress to support the growing number of unpaid family caregivers.

A new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute illustrates one recent change that's taking some of the burden off nearly 600,000 family caregivers in Minnesota. According to Elaine Ryan, AARP vice president for governor affairs, the approval of what's known as "nurse delegation" enables a nurse to delegate a variety of medical tasks to a direct care worker – everything from dressing a wound to dispensing medicine.

"There are more than a dozen, probably two dozen different things you could be doing, and Minnesota has now allowed that," she says. "Which means the family caregiver doesn't have to come home from work to give medication. That is not a situation family caregivers should be in."

Ryan says the latest analysis shows Minnesota's unpaid family caregivers put in more than 500 million hours each year, a value of $8 billion.

With that huge an influence on the state and on the many families themselves, Ryan says more needs to be done to help caregivers as they deal with increasingly complex duties and negative impacts on their work, their physical and mental health, and their finances.

"About four in 10 say they've felt this," he says. "They feel this financial pinch because 70 percent of them are using some of their own money to help care for someone. They're buying things for them. They're buying equipment and none of that is reimbursable."

The policy recommendations in the report include financial assistance for family caregivers through a federal or state tax credit, strengthening "family-friendly" workplace flexibility policies, and comprehensive guardianship and power of attorney reforms.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN