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Family Caregivers: an Often Overlooked Subgroup

By Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging

In 2015 an estimated 34.2 million Americans provided unpaid care for an adult aged 50 or older. The Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 Report, conducted by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), found that the prevalence of caregiving was higher in Hispanics when compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Also, the results of the report show that Hispanic caregivers spend almost 32 hours per week caring for a loved one. This commitment stems from the importance that is placed on family in the Latino culture.

The report also found that the health and wellbeing of these family caregivers are often compromised because of the high demands of their roles. Caregivers who worked higher hours were more likely to describe their health as fair or poor compared to their lower-hour counterparts. Many times, these higher-hour caregivers find it difficult to balance employment, and other household responsibilities such as children, when they are the sole caregivers in the home. Family caregivers often experience depression and isolation, as well as conflicts in their jobs, financial problems and other issues that affect their mental and physical wellbeing.

Family caregivers who care for individuals with certain illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or different types of cancer often find it to be much more emotionally stressful than other types of caregiving. A report, from the National Alliance for Caregiving in partnership with the National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Support Community found that 50% of cancer caregivers feel “highly stressed, and four in ten report that they need help managing emotional and physical stress. This could be a consequence of the numerous hours of care these caregivers provide. Cancer caregivers, on average spend more than 32 hours a week providing care and one-third of them provide care for 40 hours or more a week. For these caregivers, the responsibilities are much more intense, as many of them find themselves conducting medical tasks for their loved ones. The report found that more than four in ten of cancer caregivers provide help with medical and nursing tasks without any prior training.

November is celebrated as National Family Caregivers Month. It is a time to recognize the hard work that day in and day out these individuals do to fulfill their vital roles in the lives of their loved ones. The National Hispanic Council on Aging would like to recognize those individuals and thank them for everything that they do to ensure that older adults in our communities are well taken care of.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging found in its annual report State of Hispanic Older Adults: Insights from the Field, that Hispanic informal caregivers often struggle to find the information and support that they need to assist them in their caregiving roles, which often contributes to their levels of stress and poor health. In an effort to find lasting solutions that can help these caregivers receive the support they so desperately need, NHCOA is working on new initiatives with the support of AARP, which will create resources for those who find themselves without answers.

Below you can find some resources both in English and Spanish developed by AARP that can help family caregivers prepare a care plan:

Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for families

Cuidando a los Nuestros: Una Guía de Planificación para la Familia

 

CDC Issues Measles Outbreak Alert

The U.S. is currently experiencing a measles outbreak, which started in California and has spread to six additional states and Mexico. This is a great public health concern because of all infectious diseases, measles is one of the most contagious. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 people who do not have immunity against the disease and come into contact with an infected patient will develop measles. Therefore, the CDC is disseminating information to empower communities to raise awareness in their homes, workplaces, and places of faith.

While measles is considered a child’s disease, adults who are not immune to measles can catch and spread it. 

Therefore, everyone should take precaution, especially if you are planning on traveling abroad or have small children at home.

Vaccine Immunity

There are some ways to know if you have immunity against measles, such as having written documentation that states you have received one or two doses of the vaccine or laboratory evidence of immunity. If you do not have documentation or are unsure, always consult with your trusted healthcare provider or doctor as each person’s health situation is unique.

Vaccine Recommendations

The measles can be prevented with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The CDC recommends that if you were born during or after 1957 and do not have evidence of measles immunity, you should get at least one dose of the vaccine. Recommendations vary for children, students at higher education institutions, and international travelers.

Getting Vaccinated

If you aren’t sure where to get vaccinated, check out vaccine.gov’s Adult Vaccine Finder and interactive map that lists immunization requirements and information by state.

Spreading the Word

Here are some bilingual resources you can use to help spread the word about the measles:

Measles: Questions and Answers (IAC, reviewed by CDC)

Hoja Informativa para los Padres (CDC)

Sarampión: asegúrese de que su hijo haya recibido todas las vacunas (CDC)

El Sarampión Puede Viajar (CDC Podcast)

Paid Family Leave and Older Adults

Paid family leave refers to policies that allow workers to take time off from work to recover from illness, to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a newly born or adopted child. During these leaves, workers receive some form of financial payment and do not have to worry about losing their jobs.

Many people associate paid family leave with younger individuals because they assume that older adults are retired and no longer working. However, today about 30 percent of adults ages 65 and older are still employed. While each worker has their own reason for staying in the workforce longer, many continue to work due to financial insecurity and longer life expectancy. Unfortunately, as the demographics of the workforce continue to evolve, many of the policies have stayed the same.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, paid family leave is important for older adults because:

  • Older workers need paid leave to manage their own health needs and continue working. Older adults are more likely to suffer from health conditions, including chronic conditions requiring regular care. At least 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition. If older workers are going to stay healthy and productive they need policies that allow them to take time away from work to manage their serious health conditions.
  • As the population ages and people live longer, it will become more common for workers to serve as caregivers–increasing the need for paid leave. There are at least 43.5 million caregivers of adults over 50 in the United States. Most of them have paying jobs in addition to their caregiving responsibilities. These family caregivers need time off when an elderly parent or relative faces an injury or serious illness – such as a stroke or a diagnosis of cancer – and they need policies that acknowledge these caregiving responsibilities. With the population of older adults in the United States expected to swell to 20 percent of the population, or 72 million people, by 2030, this need will inevitably grow

Paid family leave is particularly beneficial for Hispanic older adults. On average, Hispanic older adults live longer than other ethnic groups in the U.S., but are more susceptible to illness. Furthermore, Hispanic older adult men have an above average labor force participation rate, but the Latino population as a whole is still disproportionately affected by poverty, with the rate being 18.7% for Hispanic older adults. Job-protected leave would provide a small piece of additional economic security to those that are still working.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) supports paid family leave work policies for everyone. Over the past year, NHCOA has been working across the country to raise awareness and empower all Hispanics to advocate for paid family leave laws at the local and state level.

NHCOA Proudly Supports the SSI Restoration Act

Washington, DC – The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) – the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and their caregivers – endorses Rep. Raul Grijalva’s introduction of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act – H.R. 1601: To amend Title XVI of the Social Security Act to update eligibility for the Supplemental Security Income program, and for other purposes.

The benefits of the SSI Restoration Act would be particularly impactful for Hispanics. According to the Social Security Administration, the average Hispanic male older adult earned $12,921 from Social Security, and the average Hispanic woman received $10,438. Although, the current maximum SSI payment is $710, many receive less than this amount. Strengthening SSI will mean more economic security for Hispanic older adults, such as staying out of poverty and being able to avoid making the choice between medication and food.

The purpose of the SSI Restoration Act is to improve the current SSI program to meet the needs of today’s economic reality. It would increase the earned-income-exclusion-amount to $357 per month and provide a bit more economic security to those who need it most and it would repeal the SSI in-kind support and maintenance provision, allowing older adults to be cared for by their loved ones without having to worry about having their only source of income reduced.

“We commend Congressman Grijalva for his leadership in introducing the SSI Restoration Act to strengthen the program for the future. We urge other members of Congress to join Congressman Grijalva in supporting SSI,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA.

NHCOA is hopeful that the SSI Restoration Act passes, for the values of a society are reflected in the way we care for our most vulnerable.

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