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New report: Society undervalues family caregivers’ vital, increasingly important role

Study highlights the growing need for caregiving

WASHINGTON -- People caring for their aging parents, their loved ones with disabilities, or their children are doing some of the most important work there is. And yet many public policies undervalue the worth of caring for a loved one. As the largest population cohort in U.S. history -- the Baby Boomers -- ages, with a longer expected lifespan than ever, the need for caregivers will grow. Vital and Undervalued, a new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, shows how many people are either providing care for or receiving care from a loved one. The report uses these statistics to project how much more caregiving will be needed in a variety of states representing all regions of the country in the decades to come. Our under-valuing of caregiving is a problem which this report shows will only grow worse without a change in policy.

“We all know that no one loves -- or cares for -- a family member like a family member.  Yet, by failing to recognize the value of caregiving, our current policies encourage people to do other work and instead hire someone else to care for a loved one,” said Evan Preston, director of New Economy Campaigns at U.S. PIRG Education Fund and author of the report. “It is absurd that policies meant to provide financial assistance would drive people to outsource the care of their relatives. We need to recognize the value of caregiving, as Congress just did in passing an expanded child tax credit, and stop treating it as less worthy than work outside the home.”

The report finds that millions of adults across the United States provide daily unpaid care for family members. About one in five American adults provides care for a child, while about one in six provides unpaid care for another adult, often an aging loved one. 

The need for these caregivers is growing, even as we fail to meet the current needs for caregiving, with the total number and the proportion of Americans over 65 years of age increasing each year. Already, about one in five people who need caregiving do not have their needs met.

The report recommends realigning a variety of government policies to support family caregivers -- a rare group of people in 2021 who both Republicans and Democrats agree deserve help.

 "Just because the value of family caregivers isn’t captured in anyone’s bottom line doesn’t mean we should continue to treat it like it is worthless," said Preston. “You can’t put a price on ensuring your family members can live their best lives.”

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