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Report Puts Dollar Value on Unpaid Family Caregivers' Hours

About 459,000 Oregonians are unpaid family caregivers for loved ones. Nationally, AARP estimates the value of this care rivals Wal-Mart's annual sales. Credit: Chris Kirzeder/Alzheimer's Association.
About 459,000 Oregonians are unpaid family caregivers for loved ones. Nationally, AARP estimates the value of this care rivals Wal-Mart's annual sales. Credit: Chris Kirzeder/Alzheimer's Association.
July 16, 2015

SALEM, Ore. – AARP has just updated its research on family caregiving, and what it shows is no surprise – one in five people over the age of 25 juggles a job and family in order to care for older loved ones.

The new Valuing the Invaluable report recommends strategies for workplace flexibility and programs to help caregivers do a better job, and minimize their financial and health challenges.

Rodney Schroeder, executive director of operations at NorthWest Senior and Disability Services, says Oregon lawmakers did their part this year by preserving funding for programs that train and connect caregivers with services statewide.

"We were able to get some of the Options Counseling funding that helps through the Aging and Disability Resource Connection," he says. "There were some losses but, in general, I would say we're maintaining some of the most critical resources for caregivers."

Schroeder says Options Counseling helps caregivers learn about resources in their area. Caregiver training through Oregon Care Partners also was funded for another two years. The AARP report cites the need for more respite programs, and the ability to use paid sick leave to care for a relative. About 459,000 Oregonians are family caregivers.

Nationwide, the AARP report revealed families provide enough unpaid hours of care every year to rival Wal-Mart's annual sales. While most do it gladly, Sarah Holland with the Alzheimer's Association Oregon chapter says the trade-offs can be substantial – and states can't afford to ignore them.

"This is something that goes on for years," she says. "It really can limit someone's ability to function in multiple ways, whether that's to be employed, or their own health. Ultimately, those can directly impact the state and how the state is functioning."

The report says caregivers span all ages and ethnic groups. About three in 10 help financially in order to support the people they're caring for, and more than half of family caregivers report feeling "overwhelmed" at times by their responsibilities.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR