Op-Ed: Hoosiers spend 700 million hours a year as family caregivers. They need care, too.

Jennifer Trowbridge

If you have not yet been a caregiver, you most likely will be at some point. Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter famously said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

The pandemic laid bare the urgent need to create a better social safety net for long-term care. Now we – healthcare payors and providers as well as the community, broadly – need to continue to build on the momentum created in response to this emergency.

We need to look at this moment as an opportunity to permanently establish the services and supports for our rapidly aging population that have become critical as temporary pandemic-related measures. You may be one of those individuals. We need to recognize you and the 850,000 individuals —13% of the state of Indiana’s population — who are devoting themselves to serving as family caregivers.

There is no better time than now. November is National Family Caregivers Month. This year, in light of all that has happened, let’s work toward making family caregivers fully integrated members of care teams and the greater healthcare system.

Jennifer Trowbridge
Jennifer Trowbridge is CEO of CoAction. She formerly led state operations for Caregiver Homes of Indiana.

In eight years at least 20 percent of the U.S. population will be age 65 or over, according to U.S. Census estimates. Many of these individuals will need day-to-day assistance with physical, mental and cognitive limitations. This means the number of individuals providing caregiving will also need to grow. If current trends persist, many of these caregivers will have to be family members who step up to make sure their loved ones can be cared for in the comfort of their homes.https://www.usatodaynetworkservice.com/tangstatic/html/pind/sf-q1a2z3be0d353f.min.html

Every year, family caregivers in Indiana spend an estimated 710 million hours caring for their loved ones at home. That is nearly 2 million hours per day of coordinating doctor’s appointments, administering medications, helping with a long list of medical needs, and overseeing daily activities such as bathing and dressing.

The work of family caregivers not only fills an important gap in our healthcare system, it also has been proven to improve the quality of patient care resulting in better health outcomes. Individuals in the care of a family caregiver have reduced healthcare expenses due to fewer emergencies and trips to the ER, and they have improved adherence to medications as well.

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Organization took a leading role among states in recognizing family caregivers and implementing a Structured Family Caregiving (SFC) program for those caring for older adults and people with disabilities to help support them caring for family at home. Under the program, family caregivers are given access to experienced care teams, technology, as well as a financial stipend, which helps to support them in their caregiving responsibilities.

Additionally, in late 2020 they launched an Expedited Eligibility Pilot for Medicaid Waiver-based services, increasing access and accelerating the approval process for many Medicaid Waiver programs including SFC. Indiana is working hard to make family caregiver supports available through our Area Agency on Aging networks.

But Indiana’s policy makers can’t do it alone. While “family takes care of family,” we can’t take family for granted. We must make sure that family caregivers’ voices are heard and that their needs are met for the important services they provide.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

Those of us waiting in the wings for the day when we will be called to care for a loved one need to encourage not just policy makers, but employers, providers and other members of our community to find permanent solutions that provide family caregivers with the supports they deserve.

Jennifer Trowbridge is CEO of CoAction. She formerly led state operations for Caregiver Homes of Indiana.