Nancy LeaMond has responsibility for driving AARP's social mission on behalf of Americans 50-plus and their families. She directs government affairs and legislative campaigns, public education, volunteerism, multicultural outreach and engagement across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
When Care Moves Home
Family caregivers are increasingly important partners for health professionals
NL: AARP works to empower older Americans to choose how they live as they age, and for more and more people, that means staying in their homes and communities as long as possible. To do that, they will likely need support, especially if they are managing chronic conditions or disabilities. That's where family caregivers come in. Every day, more than 40 million Americans help aging parents, spouses and other relatives and friends with a whole host of activities — bathing, dressing, preparing and feeding meals, arranging transportation to medical appointments, handling financial and legal matters. AARP research also shows that close to half handle medical-related tasks like medication management, injections, wound care, and tube feedings.
We are committed to helping make these big responsibilities a little bit easier. We provide resources to help families navigate the health and legal systems, keep their loved one safe and manage their own life balance. We work with employers to create caregiving-friendly workplaces, and we advocate for bipartisan, common-sense policies. Over the last few years, AARP has successfully championed caregiving-related laws in all 50 states as well as the bipartisan RAISE Family Caregivers Act, signed into law this year, which will create a federal task force to look at ways to support to family caregivers.
NL: Family caregivers are as diverse as America. Nearly a third are seniors themselves. One in four are Millennials. Three out of five are women, and three out of five are in the paid workforce. Everyone's situation is different — their family circumstances and financial resources, the type of care their loved one needs, whether or not they're working or live close by. That said, we know that caring for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones takes a particular toll on women's financial security. Women family caregivers make hard choices to balance care responsibilities and earning a living. Many “lean out,” reducing work hours or passing up opportunities for promotions and higher pay. Some leave the workforce entirely. These decisions negatively impact their earnings, retirement savings, and eventual Social Security benefits.
NL: As more treatment is delivered on an outpatient basis, patients are taking on considerable responsibility for their care — whether that's following short-term orders or managing chronic conditions over the long haul. This makes family caregivers critical members of your patients' care team. They are the ones helping make sure medications are taken on time, blood pressure and blood sugar are monitored, special diets are followed and more – often with little or no training. Being intentional about including caregivers in care conversations can make a big difference in how recommendations are followed, and, supporting caregivers can increase their skill and confidence. In fact, studies are showing that providers who support and work with family caregivers see decreases in readmissions and increases in patient satisfaction.
It's also worth noting that the healthcare industry employs close to 10% of the American workforce. That's more than 15 million people, and I guarantee that a lot of them are family caregivers themselves. As employers, there's a lot you can do to support these workers. It could be as simple as forming an employee support group or distributing a list of resources. Many companies are leveraging employee assistance programs to help employees manage care tasks. Others are re-thinking leave policies or offering back-up and respite care services as employee benefits. AARP's comprehensive toolkit helps employers support the caregivers in their workforce. The toolkit is available for free at www.employercaregivingtoolkit.org.
To learn more about AARP, please visit aarp.org/caregiving.