With the elections looming and a new president guaranteed for 2016, changes are imminent no matter who takes office. Each candidate comes with their own plans, many of which are particularly pertinent to the American healthcare system. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, for example, has proposed a program aimed at offering critical aid to the American caregiver.
Caregiving in America: An Overview
A 2015 joint research study between the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP yields valuable insights into the state of caregiving in the U.S. According to the report, the typical caregiver provides unpaid care for at least 21 hours a week, has been doing so for an average of 5.5 years, and expects to continue doing so for approximately the next five years. All in all, 43 million Americans acted in an unpaid caregiving capacity to someone with special needs in 2015.
Not only did 46 percent of these higher-hour caregivers admit to experiencing high emotional stress, but they are also buckling under financial strain — particularly when you factor in an average caregiver household income of $45,700, and high costs related to everything from delivered meals and transportation to in-home health services.
In response to these figures, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving Gail Gibson says, “We’re especially concerned that not enough is being done to support family caregivers in the public or private sector as they age. There’s a double-edged sword when we fail to support caregivers, because we put both the caregiver and the care recipient at risk.”
Clinton’s Plan for the Caregiver
In response to the escalating plight of caregivers, Hillary Clinton has proposed to offer family caregivers with a combined household income of less than $120,000 a tax credit of up to $1,200 annually. This represents considerable relief — particularly in light of the fact that nearly half of caregivers spend over $5,000 on caregiving over the course of a year while nine percent spend $50,000 or even more.
In addition to benefiting from tax cuts, family caregivers would also become eligible for Social Security benefits for caregiving even while not being part of the paid workforce. These collective changes will likely be most widely felt by the beleaguered “Sandwich Generation” simultaneously caring for aging parents and their own children.
Furthermore, Clinton has also proposed boosting the current Lifespan Respite Care Act with a promise of a $100 million investment in the program — which provides function to states to foster enhanced access to community-based respite care resources — over the next 10 years, if elected.
Why these initiatives? According to a Clinton campaign faction sheet, “No one should face meager Social Security checks because they took on the vital role of caregiver for part of their career.”
Ultimately, whether or not Hillary Clinton is elected, the takeaways are clear: change is necessary when it comes to the future of senior caregiving. Says AARP Public Policy Institute Senior Vice President and Director Dr. Susan Reinhard, “We’re facing a caregiving cliff. By mid-century, there will be only three family caregivers available for each person requiring care. That means, to avoid putting them at higher risk as they age, we need to provide support for existing caregivers who are underserved by the current long-term services and support system.”
What do you think of Hillary Clinton’s proposal? We’d like to hear from you in the comments below