November is National Family Caregivers Month which recognizes the 65.7 million people who assist a loved one with personal care, skilled nursing tasks, and care management sometimes round the clock. They are partners, spouses, grandparents, parents, and children of all ages who provide support to a loved one with essential daily tasks. Twenty-four percent of them report caring for more than one person. Some adult children are balancing care for their own children and parents – what is often called “sandwich” caregiving.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, family caregivers played a critical role in keeping family members safe and healthy, under increased stress.
Caregiving and contributing to the wellness of a loved one is valuable and powerful work, but family caregivers are unpaid and receive no benefits for their labor. The economic value of unpaid caregiving services in 2013 was $470 billion, which was “more than the value of paid home care and total Medicaid spending in the same year.”
The financial cost to caregivers is high. 2 in 10 family caregivers give up full-time paid employment to provide care and spend on average $5500 per year in out-of-pocket expenses. Caregivers find it challenging to maintain full-time paid employment and lose $324,000 in wages and benefits over the course of their lives.
Caregivers carry a heavy burden for their families. They are more likely to suffer from depression and other chronic conditions. However, they also find joy and fulfillment in caring for their loved ones. Family caregivers want to provide care, but it shouldn’t be done at their own expense and with so little support.
That’s why Hand in Hand launched the Honor Domestic Work project this month, during National Family Caregivers Month, because we deeply appreciate caregiving and work in the home as essential to all of our communities. We recognize both unpaid family caregivers and domestic workers for the care, commitment, and critical assistance they bring to people with disabilities, older adults, and children to live and thrive with dignity.
At Hand in Hand, we see a direct connection between family caregivers and domestic workers, both of whose labor in private homes is exploited, goes unrecognized and devalued. There is very little public policy support for family caregivers who often are either working multiple jobs or leaving the labor market to provide care for their family members. Similarly, there are few labor protections for domestic workers. A focus on a market-based economy, rooted in racism and sexism, has attempted to erase this work that benefits all of us.
In many instances, family caregivers and domestic workers are working in teams. Some family caregivers, who can afford support or qualify for publicly funded support, hire home care or child care to knit together care for their loved ones. As a team one may be driving the family member to a doctor’s appointment, while the other is handling paperwork. The teams balance all the needs together. Family caregivers and domestic workers absorb the inadequacies of our care systems with little credit and no safety net.
We created the Honor Domestic Work project to recognize this essential community of people who represent the growing caring majority of our nation – family caregivers and domestic workers. The project is collecting stories and providing gifts to the many people who do domestic work – and that includes family caregivers. Will you honor a family caregiver in your life today – by sharing a story of appreciation or gifting them a poster to deeply thank them for their work?