SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Unpaid family caregivers in California volunteer 4 billion hours of their time, and perform work valued at $63 billion each year, according to a recent report from AARP.
The Golden State, with almost 40 million residents, has 4.7 million caregivers who help adult friends or relatives with limitations in their daily activities.
Blanca Castro, advocacy director for AARP California, says her organization believes lawmakers should require employers to allow workers more flexible schedules and paid time off when they’re caring for an older adult.
“Policymakers need to give people more time during their workday and not have to take vacation time or sick time to take care of a loved one,” she states.
California is a leader in supporting caregivers. Last year, state lawmakers raised the amount workers are paid while on family leave.
And a 2015 law requires that hospitals train caregivers for tasks such as cleaning wounds, giving medications or moving a person from wheelchair to bed, so that newly-released patients don’t end up back in the hospital.
Castro says a good next step would be to allow licensed nurse practitioners to work without being under contract from a doctor.
That would help with the shortage of medical professionals in some areas, and could allow more home care visits.
“We are the only state in the western region that still requires the nurse practitioner to have a contract with one physician in order to practice, and that really limits access to health care,” she points out.
The AARP report is part of a series known as Valuing the Invaluable. It found that in 2017, about 41 million family caregivers in the U.S. provided 34 billion hours of care.
The estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions annually is $470 billion.