Assembly Committee on Aging Hearing to Address Caregiver Support

December 5, 2005
Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging is holding four hearings across the state to gather information and recommendations on what the state can do to support and help caregivers care for their elder loved one.

The first two hearings will be held on Monday December 5th at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook and the second will be on Friday December 9th at 250 Broadway in Manhattan. The other two will be held upstate in the spring.

“New York is home to 1.7 million caregivers representing over 760,000 households” explains Assemblyman Englebright. “The typical caregiver is a 47 year old, college educated woman who spends over 20 hours per week providing unpaid care that saves New York’s health care system over $11 billion per year. Nationally, there are over 44 million caregivers providing $257 billion in unpaid care – this is more than double the annual spending on home care and nursing home care combined!”

Caregivers are continually the most neglected group in the health and long-term care system, yet they are New York’s unsung heroes who help older New Yorkers remain in their homes and communities, living independently with dignity. Without the critical services and supports provided by caregivers, countless more seniors would be unable to live at home and would be in institutions, significantly impacting the state’s Medicaid program, local budgets and taxes.

The senior population is expected to grow significantly over the next two decades while at the same time there is expected to be a decline in the professional and paraprofessional workforce who will place pressure on the state to come up with alternatives in the community to help seniors age in place. These alternatives must include caregiver support programs and respite.

“As local and state governments look to control their Medicaid dollars, they have to look at community based services, caregiver support services and respite as a central component in the long-term care continuum.” continues Englebright “Without access to these important cost-effective community services, the natural place for seniors to receive care as they get older and need assistance is in the hospital and in nursing homes. This is also the most costly place to receive care, has a direct impact on the Medicaid budget and from a public policy perspective, it makes no sense. Community services that support the vital role of caregivers have proven to delay and prevent more costly care in hospitals and nursing homes.”

FACTS ABOUT CAREGIVERS & CAREGIVING

  • Caregivers provide 80% of ALL long-term care services in the United States.
  • A high percentage of caregivers report emotional stress and mental health issues.
  • Many caregivers own health, both mental and physical, is affected due to the stress and their role as caregivers.

    • Caregivers are 2-3 times more likely to use prescriptions for depression, anxiety and insomnia than non-caregivers
    • The stress of caregiving has been shown to affect the immune system placing the caregiver at higher risk of developing a chronic illness and negatively impacting one’s ability to heal.
  • Caring for persons with cognitive impairments, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias creates different and equally stressful challenges due to them being older, frailer, in poorer health, more disabled and possibly having behavioral problems that are challenging to manage.
  • Caregivers spend a great deal of emotional, physical and financial capital in their caregiving roles.

    • Caregivers spend 11% of their income caring for a loved one with a chronic condition or disability.
    • Caregivers can lose as much as $695,000 in wages, pensions and social security over their caregiving tenure.
  • Caregivers work schedules are often compromised due to their caregiving roles – these include making phone calls at work, arriving late or leaving early, taking time off during the day and making up work on the weekends or evenings
  • Caregivers use more sick and vacation time, decrease their work hours, take a leave of absence, quit or retire early due to the caregiver roles.
  • Caregivers are more likely to pass up job promotions, transfers and relocation which affect their overall wealth in their working years.
  • On average, caregivers often pay or help pay for food, transportation, rent and on average, caregivers helped with these expenses for 2 to 6 years and spend a total of $19,500 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Caregiver report that they need:

  • More time for themselves – meaning more respite and community based services and supports
  • Help in managing stress
  • Information on managing challenging behaviors
  • Balancing work and family
  • Finding activities for the person they are caring for