By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s also remember that November is National Family Caregivers Month – a time to recognize and express our appreciation for America’s 40 million family caregivers. They are truly the backbone of our care system, helping aging parents, spouses, and other relatives and friends manage chronic conditions and disabilities.
Massachusetts’ 844,000 family caregivers provided 786 million hours of unpaid care, valued at about $11.6 billion, in 2015. AARP Massachusetts is working to support caregivers in a number of ways, including through legislative advocacy. We are working with the Massachusetts Legislature to help support family caregivers through a tax credit bill.
This bill would establish a tax credit that reimburses caregivers for a portion of what they spend to care for a loved one at home.
A recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute shows that the average family caregiver spends almost $7,000 a year out-of-pocket to help care for their loved ones, which amounts to, on average, 20 percent of their total income. An Act to Establish the Family Caregiver Tax Credit would establish a tax credit, capped at $1,500 per year, which reimburses family members for a portion of qualified expenses related to caring for adult family members who need assistance with activities of daily living.
Most people who receive assistance at home rely exclusively on unpaid family caregivers for help. Some 69 percent of Massachusetts adults report feeling stressed while trying to balance a job and their caregiving responsibilities. More than half (55 percent) of family caregivers report being overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs.
As a reminder, the CARE Act is law in Massachusetts. AARP Massachusetts fought for the CARE Act because supporting caregivers is a top priority for all of us. The CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act helps family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home. The CARE Act requires hospitals in Massachusetts to provide your loved one the opportunity to designate a family caregiver; notify you when your loved one is to be discharged to another facility or back home; and explain and demonstrate the medical tasks that you will need to perform at home, such as medication management, injections or wound care. Download your free CARE Act wallet card at www.aarp.org/caregiving
AARP has a number of resources available to family caregivers, as the need for family caregivers is growing. America is aging. By 2030, one in four Americans will be over age 50, and by 2050, one out of five will be age 65 and over. People are living longer, managing chronic conditions over an extended period of time, and, more and more, they are staying in their own homes.
The AARP Caregiving Resource Center is a wealth of information, resources and support for family caregivers. You can find tips on respite care, caregiving at home, connecting with other caregivers, and a toll-free caregiver support line. Prepare to Care: A Resource Guide for Families was developed by AARP to help make the job more manageable. It includes information on how to have vital conversations with older family members, organize important documents, assess your loved one’s needs and locate important resources. This free resource guide is available in English, Spanish and Chinese. Additionally, the resource guide is available in English for Asian family caregivers, for military caregivers and for LGBT caregivers. All guides are available to download, or you can order a hard copy at www.aarp.org/caregiving.