RICHMOND — A new report shows just how much unpaid care Virginia family caregivers provide to loved ones.
As part of AARP’s Valuing the Invaluable series, their latest report finds the 980,000 family caregivers in the state provided $14.3 billion in unpaid care. This is a $3.1 billion increase in unpaid contributions since 2019, when the report was done last.
But, there have been challenges for people taking on this kind of responsibility. Jim Dau — state director of AARP Virginia — said the Covid-19 pandemic put a particular strain on family caregivers.
“When nursing homes restricted the ability of family members to see their loved ones in those facilities, many caregivers brought their loved ones home to stay with them,” said Dau. “This is happening all at the same time they’re still trying to make sure that they can work. And in many cases they’re trying to make sure they can take care of their kids, who are learning remotely for months or longer.”
He added that on top of this, caregivers began to deal with rising energy and everyday costs as well.
Numerous programs throughout Virginia provide help and training for family caregivers. More information about them can be found on AARP Virginia’s website under family caregiving.
Along with the challenges family caregivers face, there are some misunderstandings about it as well.
Dau said it’s not given the same level of understanding as taking care of a child, and notes some things family caregivers do might make first year nursing students blush.
But, he said aside from that lack of understanding, family caregivers don’t often see themselves as just that.
“One of the most interesting things is that family caregivers frequently don’t think of themselves as caregivers,” said Dau. “They think of themselves as daughters, or nephews or brothers. They think of themselves as neighbors. They don’t think of themselves necessarily as part of what’s become an integral part of the healthcare and long term care workforce.”
Dau noted that one way state and federal elected officials can provide support for caregivers is implementing a family caregiver tax credit.
In 2022, Virginia’s General Assembly reviewed a bill that would implement such a credit, but it never made it out of committee.