Americans who care for their aging parents, grandchildren, or loved ones with special needs are getting new help. The federal government recently issued its first national strategy to support family caregivers.
More than 50 million Americans provide informal, usually unpaid care for loved ones.
At the same time, millions of grandparents are their grandchildren’s primary caretakers. It's something many of them are unprepared for.
"Historically, family caregivers really haven't been adequately supported,” said Rani Snyder, vice president of the John A. Hartford Foundation. “They spend a lot of time, sometimes it compromises their health, and if they're working caregivers, they can lose a lot of income."
She says family caregivers collectively lose more than $500 billion in income each year.
This new strategy identifies hundreds of actions that states, communities and businesses can take to support them, including expanding employment protections for caregivers with a job and ensuring they're financially secure.
"Others include increasing awareness and outreach because how many of us have done these kinds of tasks and never said, ‘I'm a caregiver,’” Snyder said. “How many of us have struggled taking someone home from the hospital, an older adult or a person with a disability, and have been asked to do or expected to do really medical complex tasks which we've never been trained."
She says many of these actions are already being done, while others would require new legislation.