Smiling caregiver supporting senior woman in walking.

AARP said Wednesday state and federal lawmakers must solve the home care worker crisis in order to take pressure off of an estimated 38 million family caregivers.

“We have to address that issue because it means family caregivers have no choice,” Susan Reinhard, director of the AARP Public Policy Institute said during a roundtable on family caregiving. “If there are no paid [caregivers], even more unpaid caregiving has to be done.”

Reinhard made the comments as AARP released Valuing the Invaluable 2023 Update: Strengthening Supports for Family Caregivers. The report estimated that unpaid family caregivers are providing an estimated 36 billion hours of care annually, worth approximately $600 billion. That is an increase of $60 billion from 2019 when AARP released its last family caregiver report. 

Attracting up to 6 million direct caregivers into the workforce by the end of the decade will require increasing caregiver wages, according to Nancy Leamond, AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president. She also suggested that finding ways for Medicare and private insurers to pay for home care might incentivize more workers to join the industry.

The family caregiver study painted a grim picture of stressed-out family members working what are essentially unpaid part-time jobs dressing wounds, managing medications, cooking, cleaning, bathing and providing other activities of daily living for loved ones. Many family caregivers are doing that work in addition to carrying on full-time jobs and taking care of children. 

AARP is advocating policy initiatives in Washington and state legislatures that would provide more resources, including training for family caregivers; tax credits and reimbursements to help families pay for direct care workers; workforce policies that provide flexible schedules and paid leave for family caregivers; and well-being programs that promote respite care. 

About a dozen states enacted paid family leave and sick leave that help family members care for ailing loved ones. Forty-five states now have Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act laws in place that support family caregivers when their relatives are hospitalized or return home.

Arizona, Colorado and New Hampshire now have laws in place that provide training for family caregivers.