A new report by the American Association of Retired Persons estimates that Connecticut family caregivers provided a cumulative total of $5.93 billion in unpaid care services to their adult loved ones in 2013.
That same year, 459,000 family caregivers in Connecticut spent 427 million hours caring for their relatives and close friends, helping with daily activities such as bathing or dressing, preparing meals, driving to appointments, and various other tasks.
“Connecticut’s passage of the CARE Act this year was a tremendous victory but there are additional steps we can take to help family caregivers that include improved workplace flexibility, tax credits, and restoring funding for respite care and home care services,” Duncan said in a statement.
According to the report, caregivers are more likely to experience high stress levels, making them more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and poor physical health than non-caregivers. The study found that more than half of family caregivers report being overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs, while nearly 40 percent report their caregiving leads to a moderate to high degree of financial stress.
The ratio of potential family caregivers to those who currently or will soon need care is on the decline, the report states.
“The dramatic decline in the caregiver support ratio suggests that the increasing numbers of very old people . . . will have fewer potential family members on whom they can rely for everyday help,” the report says. “Overall care burdens will likely intensify, and place greater pressures on individuals within families, especially as baby boomers move into old age.”
A similar report from the AARP in 2012 found that, of the current number of caregivers, 46 percent provide complex daily medical care, with one out of three reporting they had gone as much as a year without receiving a visit from a medical professional.
Handling complex caregiving tasks and enduring the daily strain of providing constant care often results in early retirement, increased periods of unemployment, loss in productivity for employers, and lower job security, the new report suggests.
The most recent legislation addressing caregivers in Connecticut is the CARE Act, which requires hospitals give patients the option to designate a family caregiver on an admissions form. The caregiver would then be notified if the patient is discharged to another facility or has needs at home. The new law also mandates healthcare facilities instruct the caregiver on how to provide the medical or nursing tasks they will need to perform at the patient’s home.
Although she believes it’s a step in the right direction, Duncan and other members of the AARP are calling for a more comprehensive plan to assist caregivers.
“We need to work on a broader plan that involves both the public and private sectors to support family caregivers here in Connecticut,” Duncan said.
The report suggests a number of resources to increase support, such as a tax relief system, Social Security caregiver credits, increased paid family leave access, and new guardianship and power of attorney reforms.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the CARE Act into law on June 5, making Connecticut one of 13 states to approve the legislation.