Caring for an elderly family member or significant other is done out of love, but the toll it takes on the caregiver eventually can become too much to bear.
New York ranks 48th among all states in providing support for its caregivers, according to AARP. Yet the value of care they provide is an estimated $32 billion each year.
Advocates for the caregivers want Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers to direct an additional $26 million in next year’s budget to the state Office for the Aging to augment caregiver assistance programs. That would immediately help about 7,000 people move off waiting lists for help, and save money in the long run by keeping the elderly in their homes rather than in expensive institutions.
The realities of an aging America can often mean a high human cost exacted by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other debilitating diseases. It’s a terrible situation for the sufferers and for those caring for them.
Support for caregivers can be as simple as a bit of respite a few times a week so that they are not on call 24/7. Taking care of the caregivers allows the elderly to age in place, postponing the move to acute care and nursing home facilities that New York State residents pay for through Medicaid to cover the sick, elderly poor.
Bruce Boissonnault, an executive council member for AARP and CEO of Niagara Health Quality Coalition, recently presented the results of the report, “Caregivers in Crisis: Why New York Must Act.”
As Boissonnault pointed out, about half of the state’s 4 million caregivers are older adult children caring for an elderly parent, and 25 percent of caregivers are over 75 themselves.
“Taxpayers are underwriting institutional care through Medicaid,” Boissonnault said.
It’s why doing things such as establishing a statewide Community Care Navigator program to connect caregivers with available services is so important, as is giving adequate funding to the state Office on Aging to help caregivers and their charges and setting up training programs for caregivers.
It will cost more to ignore the needs of caregivers than to help them.