African American woman pushing father in wheelchair

Home care providers should care about family caregivers and develop strategies to support them. That is according to Anne Tumlinson, CEO of research firm ATI Advisory, during a webinar that took place Monday from the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA).

A perfect storm of demographic and economic issues is pushing the activities of this group of 53 million unpaid caregivers into a brighter spotlight, she said. Business and policy makers are starting to respond to family caregiving issues. As a result, every home care agency needs a family caregiver strategy.

“Home care is the most intricately connected with the family and the family caregiver and you as individual business owners and members of HCAOA need to be thinking about what your strategy is going to be,” Tumlinson said.

National strategy

The federal government has a strategy to help support this group, which often suffers from financial hardship and physical and emotional ill health due to their role. Earlier in the webinar, Greg Link, Health and Human Services director of caregiver services for the Administration for Community Living, outlined the key themes and goals of the government’s 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers, which was released in September.

Home care can be a part of the strategy, he noted. The report recommends reaching out to professional caregivers to help them support family caregivers and including family caregivers as part of the care planning process.

Home care agencies and educational institutions also can partner with state agencies to set clear and consistent quality, care delivery and accreditation standards, he explained. Moreover, they can participate in multistakeholder coalitions to support employers’ efforts to recognize, honor and support working caregivers.

A growing group

Given the number of older adults in the United States, more families are going to have to deal with the issue of family caregiving, Tumlinson noted. By 2025, the population over age 85 will be the fastest-growing demographic in the United States.

Policy and business leaders are starting to take notice of family caregivers, she pointed out. This year, 160 Medicare Advantage plans are offering support for caregivers of enrollees. That number will increase to 293 next year. Meanwhile, many states are offering programs to support family caregivers, she said.

Family caregiving also is on the national political agenda with legislation such as the Credit for Caring Act, which would allow eligible caregivers a tax credit of up to $5,000 for 30% of the cost of long-term care expenses that exceed $2,000 in a taxable year.

All these actions are just the beginning of what will be a “robust national discussion” about the role of family caregivers, Tumlinson said.

Home care agencies at this point need to have a “conscious and front-of-mind approach” in thinking about family caregivers as part of the caring ecosystem.

Vicki Hoak, CEO of HCAOA, noted that her organization is establishing a National Caregivers Advisory Council composed of paid and unpaid caregivers.