President Biden Lists Eldercare and Childcare Alongside Roads and Bridges, as Crucial to the Nation’s Infrastructure

White HousePresident Joe Biden launched weekly conversations with Americans to learn about what people across the country in different situations are facing, and to discuss how upcoming legislation could affect their lives. This week, the topic of the video released by the White House was caregiving.

The video featured Susie, a caregiver from Texas. Susie describes how she began working as a nursing home caregiver before transitioning to in-home caregiving. She shares her experience during the pandemic. She said, “(w)hen the pandemic hit, my hours were cut. So was my pay. Caregivers do not have the luxury or privilege of working remotely. I feel people undervalue caregivers in our society.”

President Biden responded, saying he understood her challenges on a personal level. He said, “I understand that. My mom got sick. We got hospice and help. What that made me realize was, ‘How about those people that don’t have family?’”

Susie acknowledged that the job isn’t easy and requires a lot of dedication, even if it means working holidays, weekends and 24/7.

The president responded and said he is working on caregiver legislation that would help provide better wages and benefits for caregivers. “That’s why we’re gonna make sure, in this caregiver legislation I have, you’ll be in a position to get wages and benefits for the job you do,” Biden said in the video. “I appreciate what you’ve done. People like you should be rewarded adequately for what you do. You’re an essential part of whether or not people can live full lives.”

Rethinking and Revaluing Caregiving

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 53 million non-professional caregivers are currently taking care of loved ones. And the pandemic has increased awareness of the monumental challenges they face.

“Statistics show that sixty percent of caregivers have full-time jobs and they are forced to take twice as many days off each year as their non-caregiving co-workers,” says Dr. Jessica Zitter, a critical and palliative care specialist. “About a quarter of them leave the workforce altogether.”

In a survey conducted by Time’s Up and Caring Across Generations, 70% of respondents were in favor of a comprehensive plan to support caregivers through a coordinated set of reforms that could address everything from paid leave to funding for childcare and family care.

On his website, President Biden discussed his promises in regards to caregiving. His priorities include:

  • Easing the financial burden on families caring for aging relatives and loved ones with disabilities and reducing unnecessary and costly hospitalizations;
  • Providing people who need care with better, more dignified services and supports that meet their specific needs and personal choices;
  • Eliminating the current waitlist for home and community services under Medicaid;
  • Establishing a long-term services and supports innovation fund to help expand home- and community-based alternatives to institutional care;
  • Improving caregiving and health outcomes in our nation’s most underserved communities by adding 150,000 community health workers;
  • Filling additional gaps in the nation’s health care infrastructure that impact families’ caregiving responsibilities;
  • Engaging in a national strategy to recruit, retain and empower nursing professionals; and
  • Working with states to set up a simpler way for Americans searching for caregiving help to go online, find out what financial support they might be eligible for based on their income, and identify potential caregivers.

The Biden administration is starting to deliver on its campaign promises to rethink social supports for care in all its forms: unpaid family caregiving for the ill, eldercare, childcare, paid care work, and more, as follows:

  • The Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan contains a plan to “solidify the infrastructure of our care economy by creating jobs and raising wages and benefits for essential home care workers.” Specifically, he is calling on Congress to put $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.
  • A national paid-leave policy has wide bipartisan support. In addition, hundreds of companies have recognized the importance of providing more support for employees, calling on Congress to enact paid leave as part of pandemic relief. A coalition of small businesses has also advocated for publicly funded paid leave that would help them compete to attract workers. and
  • The FAMILY Act, a leave bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa de Lauro (D-Conn.) is before Congress now.

What to Do Now About Caregiving Burnout in America

Kate Washington, author of Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America, is very vocal about the need for more caregiver support in this country. Her book describes her struggle to care for her seriously ill husband — and looks at the role unpaid family caregivers play in our society and how we fail to provide them with structural support.

A big theme of the book is burnout. Caregivers often feel burnout because of the intensity, the hours, and the emotional strain of caregiving. For many caregivers, it’s the unknown duration of the stress, the high-pressure economic challenges, and sometimes interpersonal challenges. There’s very little respite.

According to Washington, “(m)ost people are doing caregiving behind closed doors. They feel exhausted and isolated and like nobody’s seeing them. And the result is this feeling of real fragility; being frazzled and having a really hard time with the necessary element of providing care, which is empathy. It burns people’s emotional candles so much that it saps the very thing that they’re trying to do in the first place.”

To feel less burned out, Washington had a lot of family support and she felt that was incredibly helpful. She urges other caregivers to accept the help that they’re offered and to ask for the help that they are not offered. People recognizing that their need for breaks is not selfish — it’s self-preservative — is critical.

Washington believes that there could be a more integrated approach to care that prioritizes in-home care and she thinks that would go a long way. She says, “If society wants us to keep caring for others, it’s going to have to show a little more care for us.”

For more tips about caregiver burnout, please see our blog articles on the subject. We will be sure to update our clients and other readers on any caregiver policy reform that occurs!

When a Loved One Needs More Care Than You Can Provide

Are you a caregiver for a loved one who lives at home? When you or your loved one cannot live independently and are showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives.

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care in the future, it is always wise to plan ahead. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of helping you and your family navigate the aging continuum, protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with receiving nursing home level care at home, or going into assisted living or nursing home care, while helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please contact us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Elder Care Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care Attorney DC: 202-587-2797
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