Opinion | ‘It Should Not Be This Hard’: When Family Members Provide the Care

Readers respond to an Op-Ed essay urging increased support for the millions of Americans providing such assistance.

To the Editor:

Re “We Must Assist Family Caregivers,” by Kate Washington (Op-Ed, Feb. 23):

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a national caregiving crisis that existed long before 2020. More than ever, the estimated 50 million Americans who serve as unpaid family caregivers are an essential extension of the health care team.

As Ms. Washington so clearly illustrated, their responsibilities are vast. Indeed, over the past decade there has been a dramatic shift in the United States to a model of out-of-hospital care that depends on the existence and competence of a caregiver and yet does very little to formally acknowledge, train or support such caregivers.

My colleagues and I are hopeful about the potential support of caregivers through President Biden’s coronavirus emergency relief package, and through strategic plans he presented to create a 21st-century caregiving work force.

In addition to potential tax credits and 12 weeks of guaranteed paid family leave, such efforts to improve caregivers’ health outcomes should include a national strategy to support their mental health, both during their caregiving journey and after it has ended.

Allison J. Applebaum
New York
The writer, a psychologist, is the director of the caregivers clinic at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

To the Editor:

As a former caregiver to my late husband, who suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s, I know firsthand the enormous toll caregiving takes on a caregiver’s finances, health and essential soul. I left a rewarding career and lost years of income to care for my husband, and I had to navigate, negotiate and often nauseate my way through a labyrinth of bureaucracy to understand what resources were available to our family. It should not be this hard.

I fully support President Biden’s proposed Social Security credits for family caregivers to help ensure that one is not penalized for the most difficult job that most of us will ever do.

My bigger hope is that the new administration makes caregiving a top priority and helps elevate the role of caregivers, who can struggle doubly during times of unexpected crisis.

Fran Wolberg
Winston-Salem, N.C.
The writer is a board member of her local Alzheimer’s Association.

To the Editor:

No doubt we need a national program to pay for home and community-based services that unpaid caregivers now provide for adult family members to stay at home and not be put in nursing homes.

Medicare currently pays for 100 days but only after a three-day stay in a hospital. Medicaid pays for unlimited care in nursing homes as an entitlement but provides home-care reimbursement only to a limited number of people after they are on a waiting list. There is a relatively simple remedy: Amend Medicaid to provide the same entitlement for home and community-based services as are provided for nursing homes. This will help family caregivers a lot.

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