Caregiver Crisis in NY: Looming Demographic Shift Could Spell Disaster for State’s Elderly - Advocates Call for Change
NYS Ranks Near Last in Support for Unpaid Caregivers; AARP Announces Blueprint to Avert Disaster, Makes Issue a Top Legislative Priority
ALBANY, NY – New York State is already at the bottom of the barrel in providing needed supports for 4.1 million unpaid caregivers, and today, AARP warned a looming demographic shift leaving fewer people able to provide that care - valued at $32 billion annually - could spell disaster. The Association joined with fellow advocates at the State Capitol to call for change, releasing a blueprint for the state to fix New York’s caregiver problems and prevent the crisis from becoming a disaster.
AARP says the plan will protect the elderly and frail and save taxpayers money by strengthening supports for more than four million unpaid, informal family caregivers.
The Empire State ranks 48 th in providing support to the over 4 million unpaid caregivers who deliver an estimated $32 billion per year in care to loved ones, oftentimes older relatives. If that wasn’t bad enough, a recent AARP analysis finds the caregiving bubble in New York is about to burst, meaning there will be fewer family members to provide care for older relatives. In 2010 there was a potential pool of 6.6 people aged 45-65 for every person 80 and older who would likely need care at some point. By 2030, potential caregivers in the state will shrink to 4.8 to each person over 80, and in 2050, there will be just 3.5 people to provide the care.
Today, AARP, the New York State Caregiving & Respite Coalition and the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, Inc. warned that New York will pay the price if it doesn’t act to support the state’s caregivers. As more Boomers face the demands of family caregiving and the state’s elderly population struggles with where to turn, the Association is making fixing New York’s caregiver problems a top priority.
It’s a top issue for 50+ voters, who make up the most powerful voting demographic in the state. AARP is working to make sure the Governor and lawmakers hear that message loud and clear.
Today, AARP and its partners released Caregivers in Crisis; New York Must Act, which urges Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to:
- Establish a “Community Care Navigator” program to help caregivers develop personalized roadmaps to direct them to available help, support and services for their ailing parents, spouses, loved ones – and themselves.
- Provide adequate funding to the State Office for the Aging for cost-effective non-Medicaid-funded caregiving assistance programs, starting with a $26 million down payment to move about 7,000 New Yorkers off waiting lists and into existing programs.
- Train caregivers to perform more medical procedures themselves.
- Strengthen family leave policies to protect workforce productivity.
- Ensure access to competent legal assistance and protect the vulnerable from fraud and exploitation.
- Promote and increase affordable housing options designed to enhance independence.
- Expand successful volunteer services models to provide help and contain costs.
- Encourage direct-care staff recruitment and retention.
Those recommendations grew out of suggestions AARP and its partners received from about 1,400 caregivers, 900 of whom attended 12 listening sessions around the state this summer and fall. Those caregivers and 500 more who responded to an on-line survey agreed that New York is not doing enough to support them.
“The lack of support and services for caregivers in New York is already a crisis, and it’s moving toward disaster,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “We ranked 48th of the 50 states in a national AARP survey on support for family caregivers. And a looming population shift in New York will result in fewer caregivers to care for more elderly residents, stretching caregivers even thinner.”
Already, the number of caregivers in New York has grown to 32%, from 25% in the 1990s. And a recent AARP report found that while there were 6.6 potential caregivers aged 45 to 64 for every person in the high-risk years of 80+ in New York in 2010, there will only be 4.8 in 2030 and 3.5 in 2050.
“We call on Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to create a Community Care Navigator program to develop a personal roadmap for each caregiver to find the information, services and supports he or she needs,” added Neal Lane, AARP New York State President and a former Director of the State Office for the Aging. “This was the top concern among the caregivers we listened to around the state, who want to take care of their loved ones but too often don’t know where to start or where to turn.”
“Caring for an older parent is the most rewarding and the most humbling thing I've ever done. But if I hadn’t been able to take early retirement, caregiving to the degree my mother needed would have been a lot more difficult,” said Mike Meyers of Albany, who cares for his elderly mother. “And without finding needed resources and knowledgeable people familiar with the system, caregiving is an uphill battle.”
“There’s no pattern and no protocol for the progression of the disease of Alzheimer’s,” said Jeri Cayan, whose husband suffers from the dementia. “For the caregiver, it’s the ultimate in giving of oneself, body and spirit, and with physical and emotional demands beyond belief.”
“Every day family caregivers across New York state struggle with issues like providing personal care for loved ones,” said Ann Marie Cook, Director of the NYS Caregiving & Respite Coalition and President/CEO of Lifespan of Greater Rochester. “Every day they worry about aging parents. Every day they hope to avoid the crisis that will tip the delicate balance of independence versus dependence for aging family members. As is clear from the listening tour, they need more guidance, more information, and most of all, they need our help keeping loved ones at home.”
“We heard the voices of New York's caregivers and their needs are clear,” said Igal Jellinek, Executive Director of the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, Inc. “Both caregivers and their loved ones need meaningful support, guidance and resources to ensure that older people can age with dignity in New York State. We need to act now to address this growing demographic.”
“Caregivers spoke candidly about their challenges during the listening tour – they need more support to help their loved ones remain in the community,” said Laura A. Cameron, Executive Director of the Association on Aging in New York. “Every day caregivers reach out to local offices for the aging for information, assistance and services. Meanwhile, the demand for services already exceeds the supply – waiting lists grow day by day. Invest now to help caregivers.”
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