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10 Min Read
April 21, 2023

Why Family Caregivers Deserve Compensation

by Mimi Lewi

Family caregivers are the unsung heroes in our society. They dedicate their time and energy to caring for loved ones, often taking on the responsibility due to a lack of affordable (sometimes, available) alternative care options. Caregivers — spouses, parents, adult children — provide vital help that enables their loved ones to live independently and with dignity.


However, caregiving is a demanding and challenging job. One that can take a toll on the caregiver’s health, finances and personal life. It’s past time for us to recognize the value family caregivers provide. Compensation for family caregivers is one way to ensure more support for this growing group of Americans. 


In this article, we’ll explore why family caregivers deserve to be compensated and how it can benefit both the caregiver and the care recipient. But first, let’s explore why family caregivers are so important today.

Family Caregivers:
Why Are There More of Them?

Family caregiving is becoming increasingly common. As of 2022, there are more than 53 million family caregivers in the United States. This is a marked rise from even just a few years ago. For example, only about 43.5 million caregivers provided unpaid care to a child or adult in 2015.

Why are these numbers increasing so rapidly, and how do they indicate the importance of family caregivers? There are several contributing factors, which include:


  • An aging population
  • Rising healthcare costs and a lack of affordable long-term care options
  • Increased instances of chronic illnesses

An Aging Population


The portion of the U.S. population aged 65 and over has increased significantly over the past few years, rising to 16% in 2021. That number is expected to continue to rise, reaching as much as 20% by 2030.


With people living longer, there is a growing need for caregivers to assist with day-to-day tasks for family members. As individuals age, they may experience physical and cognitive decline, which can make it difficult for them to carry out tasks they were once able to do. 


This is where family caregivers come in, providing necessary assistance to maintain the quality of life of their aging loved ones.


Rising Healthcare Costs


Healthcare costs are on the rise, causing an average of 38% of Americans to put off treatment even for more serious health conditions. Family caregivers can help alleviate some of the financial burdens on families.


By providing care at home, they can reduce the need for expensive hospital stays, rehabilitation centers, or long-term care facilities. This can result in significant cost savings for families, allowing them to allocate resources toward other important needs.


Increased Instances of Chronic Illnesses


The rise in chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease has increased the need for family caregivers. These illnesses often require ongoing care, which can be challenging for an already overtaxed healthcare system to provide. 


Family members can step in to provide much-needed personalized care that is tailored to the physical, emotional, and social needs of their loved ones. This personalized care can improve the quality of life for the care recipient and promote their independence and well-being.


Additionally, caregivers can ensure that their loved one’s medical needs are being met, which can help prevent hospitalization or other costly interventions.

3 Reasons Family Caregivers Deserve to Be Compensated

These healthcare trends are placing even more strain on a healthcare system that is already stretched thin due to a chronic, unrelenting staffing shortage. The undersupply of qualified healthcare workers impacts long-term care providers – nursing homes, home care agencies, hospice care – more directly and immediately than most other parts of the healthcare system. 


Without enough staff to care for patients, providers are unable to meet the growing demand. As a result, many Americans today struggle with securing affordable long-term care options for their elderly or disabled family members. More and more families are forced to manage their loved ones’ frequently complicated healthcare needs on their own. 


However, becoming a family caregiver often requires substantial personal sacrifice and resilience in the face of financial, physical and emotional demands of the job.   


Financial Strain


Caring for a family member full-time often causes financial hardship for the caregiver. Providing care for a loved one can be costly, particularly if they have significant medical needs or require specialized equipment or modifications to their home.


Family caregivers may need to take time off work, reduce their hours, or leave work altogether to provide care, which can result in a significant loss of income. In addition, they may need to cover expenses such as:


  • Medication
  • Transportation
  • In-home care services


These expenses can quickly add up, causing financial stress for caregivers and the entire family.


Physical Demands


Caregiving can also be a very physically demanding job, even more so if the care recipient has mobility issues or requires assistance with essential activities such as bathing, getting dressed or eating. As a result, caregivers may experience fatigue, back pain, and other physical symptoms as they manage the physical needs of their loved ones. The routine, daily care necessary to keep a family member comfortable requires substantial effort. It’s a big job – in every sense of the word. 


Emotional Toll


Caring for a loved one is not all work – it can be a rewarding experience in many ways. At the same time, the job frequently exacts an emotional toll. Many family caregivers experience stress, anxiety or depression as they struggle to balance caregiving with their other responsibilities. Caregiving is an ongoing responsibility and many family caregivers never get a day off. This undoubtedly adds to their emotional and physical strain.


The emotional burden of family caregiving can be particularly difficult for those caring for loved ones with chronic or progressive illnesses. Seeing a loved one’s health decline can be distressing, and managing their care needs can be overwhelming. 


The long-term emotional, physical, and financial demands of caregiving can lead to financial hardship and burnout. Fortunately, there are resources out there to help family caregivers navigate the multitude of challenges they face.

What Resources Are Available for Family Caregivers?

Many family caregivers are unaware that they may be eligible for family caregiver compensation for the care they provide to their loved ones. Thankfully, there are several resources that they can take advantage of to help ease the financial and emotional burden of caregiving.


Federal Programs


There are several federal programs available for family caregivers to receive financial assistance, including Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling Program, which provides funds for the caregiver to use as compensation for their services


Another excellent program is the Veterans Administration’s (VA) Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, which offers financial assistance, training, and support to eligible caregivers of veterans.


State Programs


State programs can also provide much-needed financial assistance to family caregivers.

One example is the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) in New York, which allows Medicaid recipients to hire family members or friends to provide care services. The program pays caregivers for their time, which can help offset the financial burden of caregiving.


Another example is the Consumer Directed Services (CDS) program in Missouri, which provides financial assistance to family caregivers who provide care for individuals with disabilities. This program allows caregivers to receive payment for their services and provides funding for necessary supplies and equipment.


Finally, many states offer respite care services that give overworked family caregivers a much-needed break by providing in-home workers or daycare services.


These state programs can help ease the financial strain of caregiving and ensure that family caregivers can continue providing quality care for their loved ones.


Private Organizations and Nonprofit Groups


Private organizations and nonprofit groups like the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) or the Family Caregiver Alliance provide a wealth of information and resources. Ranging from educational materials to support groups and advocate services, these resources help caregivers navigate the caregiving journey. 

Supportive Workplace Policies


Working caregivers can also take advantage of supportive workplace policies such as:

  • Paid time off
  • Flexible schedules
  • A hybrid workplace — a combination of remote and in-person work


In addition, state and federal laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offer job protection and time off to eligible caregivers who need to care for a sick loved one. 


Therefore, you need to incorporate these flexible policies and benefits into your healthcare organization to support your employees who may be taking care of loved ones.

Providing Fair Compensation for Family Caregiving

Family caregivers play a crucial role in ensuring their loved ones receive the care and support they need. They make tremendous sacrifices in terms of their time, energy and finances. So, it’s only fair that they receive adequate compensation to help ease their financial burdens and recognize the value of their contributions.


Providing compensation for caregivers is not just a matter of fairness. It’s also a wise investment in our healthcare system. By compensating caregivers, we can ensure that they can continue to provide outstanding care to their loved ones and prevent costly hospitalizations and institutionalization. 


It’s time we acknowledge the increasing significance of long-term care planning for American families and act decisively to address the enormous hardships family caregivers currently face. 


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