Let’s do more to help elder caregivers

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The (Jeffersonville) News and Tribune

Like most Americans, Hoosiers aren’t doing a good job of planning for their long-term care needs. And like many states, Indiana needs to do more to assist the family members who are bridging the care-giving gap.

An American Association of Retired Persons report found 790,000 Hoosiers have provided more than 740 million hours of elder care for family members at an estimated value of $10.8 billion.

“The state of Indiana should be very thankful for these unpaid family caregivers because without them they would have quite an issue to solve in their state budget,” Sarah Waddle, the AARP state director, told the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

The government can assist those caregivers, according to the AARP, by offering tax credits, ensuring family and medical leave is paid and funding more community-based services.

It’s well-documented that Indiana is facing an assisted living and nursing home crisis. Chronic worker shortages and funding issues in those facilities are making it harder for elders to find a quality place to spend their golden years. An aging population is expected to exacerbate the dilemma.

Couple that issue with a heavy reliance on families to provide care for their elders and it’s easy to imagine how our older Hoosiers are being protected by a flimsy safety net.

Some Hoosiers simply can’t afford supervised private care, and they are left dependent upon their family members. Those family members who provide the needed services should be commended, but such responsibilities exact physical, financial and mental tolls.

By ensuring caregivers will be paid within reason when they are forced take time off to help a family member, our state can help. Lawmakers at the federal and state level should also explore tax credits for unpaid caregivers to offset their expenses.

Personal responsibility is also important. While we’d like to believe that we’ll live forever, and that aging won’t affect our daily lives, both are untrue. We must do a better job of planning for our care. While many family members are willing to sacrifice to care for their relatives, requiring their constant care can burden their lives. Most of us don’t want that for our loved ones, and that’s why it’s crucial that we plan for the storm before it arrives.

Our elders deserve quality care and dignity in their later years. If families are to continue to lead in providing that care, we must better support them.