Family members taking care of an elderly or sick person often face financial, social and emotional challenges, according to a March report from AARP, a nonprofit that focuses on the needs of Americans over the age of 50.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 23% of Texans age 45 or older provide care to a family member or friend. Out of the total population of the state, about 10.5% of Texans, or 1 in 5 adults, are caregivers, according to AARP.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of long-term care in this country,” said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president of AARP Public Policy Institute, in a news release. “The care they provide is invaluable to those receiving it.”

Per the report from AARP, 60% of caregivers work either a part-time or full-time job, with 40% citing emotional stress from juggling both responsibilities.

A closer look

In Austin, caregivers can find resources including education, support groups and respite care from organizations such as AGE of Central Texas and centers such as Town Square in Northwest Austin.

Town Square is modeled after a town from the 1950s and provides day care to seniors, including those in need of dementia care, with a variety of activities to allow for socialization and stimulation outside of the home. Respite care not only gives seniors a place to spend the day, but allows caregivers time to work or rest, center Director Elisa Reodica said.

“It's a very exhausting position to be in,” Reodica said of being a family caregiver. “Instead of hiring private in-home care, which can be quite expensive, they can bring their loved ones here, and we can watch them, be with them for eight hours a day, Monday through Friday.”

Town Square also provides a monthly support group to caregivers and offers educational resources on topics such as nutrition, medication management and mental health.

“A lot of our families have grown pretty close, because they're going through the same kind of journey with their loved ones, so it's nice that they've been able to meet new friends who understand what they're going through,” Reodica said. “Typically when someone is diagnosed with something like a memory issue, they don't necessarily get the education or the knowledge of what comes with the disease, so we really take that on to be able to help our families in that way.”

The cost

Reodica says that Town Square, or respite care in general, can be a more affordable alternative to in-home care or senior living facilities.

An in-home caregiver can cost about $25 to $35 an hour, Reodica said. The cost of Town Square begins at about $18 an hour.

Senior living costs in the Austin area are higher than other Texas cities, with the average monthly cost of independent and assisted living up to $2,000 more than other metros, per the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

In 2021, the estimated economic value of care that Americans gave to family members with health conditions is $600 billion, per the AARP report. By 2034, AARP predicts that adults aged 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 18, and the availability of family caregivers is projected to shrink.

What’s next

The report highlighted potential solutions to provide support to unpaid caregivers, including:
  • Strengthening paid family and sick leave
  • Expanding respite care services
  • Offering caregiver tax credits or other reimbursement programs to offset the costs of family caregiving
  • Make training and education available to caregivers that connects them to services and support
  • Implementing the National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers, a strategy released in 2022 by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that highlights over 150 actions that local government can take to support family caregivers
“This is not just a family issue: it impacts communities, employers, and our health and long-term care systems,” Reinhard said. “We must treat family caregivers as the valuable resource that they are by providing them the support they need to care for loved ones while also caring for themselves.”

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