Aging & Long Term Care Honors Unpaid Family Caregivers for their Vital Work
November 20, 2023
In November, Aging & Long Term Care of Eastern Washington (ALTCEW) honors unpaid family and kinship caregivers who help family members and friends with chronic illness, disabilities, and other special needs. Unpaid family caregivers are estimated to provide 770,000,000 hours and over 16 billion dollars in unpaid essential services, and they play a vital role in our long-term services and supports.
Washington State is recognized as a leader in the nation for long-term care services and supports. Programs carried out by Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services, Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, thirteen Area Agencies on Aging (including ALTCEW), their local partners, and federally recognized Tribes, are essential to support family caregivers.
The need for unpaid family caregivers is increasing rapidly. In 2021, 42,000 children were living with grandparents as the head of household, and there is an ever-increasing number of kinship caregivers such as uncles, aunts, cousins, and siblings stepping in to assume responsibility for children whose parents are unable or unwilling to parent.
To help address this challenge:
- The Dementia Action Collaborative (DAC) is increasing the availability and awareness of supports and services for more than 213,000 family members caring for a person living with dementia, including resources such as the Dementia Road Map: A Guide for Family and Care Partners.
- The DAC recently updated the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.
- To help unpaid family caregivers get a break from caregiving, learn new skills, and access self-care and wellness resources, innovative programs like the Medicaid Transformation Project and WA Cares, Washington’s long term care trust, will bring new sources of funding.
- The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) has expanded access to nutrition for eligible older adults with an electronic benefit card. This electronic benefit card provides $80 for each eligible older adult to access fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs at participating farmers markets, farm, and roadside stands.
As the state’s older population is expected to increase, and unpaid family caregivers are facing workforce challenges and population shifts that decrease the number of family members available to care for their older relatives, comprehensive supports for family caregivers are essential.
If you want more information on Washington’s supports for unpaid caregivers, learn about the Caregiver Support Program which can provide free or low-cost support such as access to support groups, counseling, caregiver training, respite care, and more. Visit www.altcew.org/programs-services/caregiver-support or call our Community Living Connections helpline at (509) 960-7281 to learn more.