La Feria News

Texas Caregivers Need Some Care, Too

Unpaid caregivers often put their own needs on hold in order to look after a parent, spouse or friend. Photo: truthseeker08/Flickr

by Mary Kuhlman

AUSTIN, Texas – There are nearly 3.5 million caregivers in Texas whose invaluable contributions allow older relatives to age in place in their homes.

And there’s a call to better support these folks, during National Family Caregivers Month in November.

Unpaid caregivers often put their own needs on the back burner in order to look after a parent, spouse or friend, says Amanda Fredriksen, associate state director for advocacy with AARP Texas.

She notes there are often not enough hours in the day for a caregiver to take a break and attend to his or her own health, relationships and obligations.

“Sometimes, a caregiver may be the only person that their loved one sees,” Fredriksen points out. “And so, they need support – whether it’s a place to take their loved one, or to have someone come into the home in the place of the caregiver – so they know their loved one is safe.”

In an AARP study, more than half of family caregivers said they were “overwhelmed” by the amount of care their family member needs.

Fredriksen says respite care can provide time for caregivers to catch up with their own needs, but in Texas, there’s limited funding available for this type of assistance.

“Those respite dollars go to Aging and Disability Resource Centers, which are located across state and available to anyone who can seek them out,” she states. “The challenge is, there’s just not enough dollars to support the number of unpaid family caregivers.”

And Fredriksen notes supporting the work of caregivers can help the state save money on the cost of long-term care.

“It’s a lot less expensive to provide a few hours of respite care than it is to have that caregiver burn out because they don’t get the break, and that loved one ending up in nursing home, which may result on them being on Medicaid,” she points out.

Family caregiving takes an average of 18 hours a week, which in total is worth about $35 billion in Texas. That’s nearly four times the amount of Medicaid spending on long-term care and supports.

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