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Advocacy Starts at Home: Strengthening Supports for Low-Income Older Adults and Family Caregivers
posted 02.08.2016

By Fay Gordon and Vanessa Barrington

Margaret is a mom, with two teenagers at home, a husband, and a nonprofit career. Every day, Margaret visits her 91 year-old mother Sadie, and is always on-call for doctor’s appointments, help with bills, and groceries. Margaret is a family caregiver, one of nearly 35 million Americans providing unpaid care to an older adult.

Policymakers and the media  are paying more attention to the needs of men and women like Margaret, and focusing on the tremendous value caregivers provide by helping older adults age at home and in their communities. Part of the discussion is the interplay between the needs of older adults and their caregivers and the full range of support systems needed to support both. More attention is needed on the impact caregiving has on poor families and the higher risks of poverty among caregivers—who are overwhelmingly women and often women of color.

In our new report, and an accompanying video, Advocacy Starts at Home: Strengthening Supports for Low-Income Older Adults and Family Caregivers, Justice in Aging draws the connection between fighting senior poverty, supporting caregivers, and the services needed to help older adults. The stress and expense of caregiving will touch every one of us at some point in our lives, but it can be devastating for poor families. In the paper, we identify clear solutions that will benefit everyone, while providing poor families with the basic support system they need to ensure that older adults in their families can age at home in dignity. The report explores two interrelated categories of policy solutions, impacting older adults and family caregivers:  

  1. Solutions that improve and strengthen older adult support systems to relieve pressure on family caregivers.
  2. Solutions to expand existing and adopt new policies to directly support family caregivers so they are better able to care for aging loved ones.

With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, and growing numbers of older adults aging into poverty, we need to elevate the role caregivers can play in supporting them and create a system that works for older adults and caregivers.  Read the report and watch the video to learn more about what can be done to help families and ensure more older adults can age with dignity at home and in their communities.

Fay Gordon is a Staff Attorney and Vannessa Barrington is Communications Director at Justice in Aging.

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