Saturday, March 16, 2013

Caregiving is a Poverty Issue

Many times we talk or think about caregiving as a separate social issue from poverty or disability issues. We often picture caregiving in scenarios involving older folks with a well spouse caring for an ill spouse, or an adult child taking care of an aging or ill parent. Occasionally we extend that picture-story to those caring for someone with cancer.

But caregiving is also a poverty issue and it is frequently ignored even by those who are poverty advocates. Caregiver economics are part of caregiver stress. Part of the blind spot is that we rarely see past the crisis that throws a family into caregiving: the cancer diagnosis, the surgery gone wrong, the ICU, the nursing home. But poverty begins after chemo is complete and after the ICU and after the discharge to home. In most situations both employed adults have lost their employment—one to illness and one to caregiving. Few families can absorb one lost income, even fewer can lose two.

We also forget or don’t extend our imaginations to the flip side: How can families in poverty cope with stroke, heart attack, chronic disability and cancer—which is fast becoming a chronic disability. People living in poverty can’t go to Cancer Clubs and Chemo Yoga and they don’t have friends to drive them to treatment three times a week and friends in poverty can’t bring the extra hot meal. This is the hidden face of caregiving and these are hidden aspects of poverty.

Here are some stats from the National Family caregivers Association:

Women who are family caregivers are 2.5 times more likely than non-caregivers to live in poverty and five times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Study conducted by researchers at Rice University
and data compiled from the Health and Retirement Study
funded by the National Institute of Aging and conducted by the University of Michigan, 1992-2004
Caregiving families have median incomes that are more than 15% lower than non-caregiving families. In every state the poverty rate is higher among families with members with a chronic illness or disability than among families without.
Disability and American Families: 2000, Census 2000 Special Reports, July 2005.

During the 2009 economic downturn, 1 in 5 family caregivers had to move into the same home with their loved ones to cut expenses.
Evercare Survey of the Economic Downturn and Its Impact on Family Caregiving;
National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. March 2009

No comments: