A majority of U.S. voters say it is important for Congress to expand services to enable seniors to live independently at home. That’s according to a new AARP poll that focuses on unpaid caregivers, with concerns not limited to those providing care. 68% of poll respondents backed the idea of giving older populations more of a chance to avoid care facilities. 57% said Congress can make that more of a reality by providing more support to unpaid caregivers.
Jim Flaherty, of AARP Wisconsin, said if state and federal lawmakers do not take meaningful action soon, more strain will be placed on long-term care facilities.
“It’s time that we recognize that Wisconsin is getting older as a state and that the services needed to take care of older folks is going to get more and more intense – not less – and we need to recognize that and support family caregivers,” he said.
The poll included responses from voters 18 and older. More than two-thirds expressed concern about whether they will be able to get the care they need as they grow older. In the current Wisconsin budget debate, a proposed caregiver tax credit did not advance. But at the federal level, President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order that offers a range of caregiver support.
Not every family is lucky to have enough dependents, relatives or community members step in to provide care, Flaherty said.
“Up in northern Wisconsin, some of these rural towns are aging in place,” he explained. “A lot of the younger folks -they are taking jobs outside of some of those rural towns. So, the long-established folks are living there, and they need family caregiving services, but respite care is simply not available.”
55% of respondents said they would prefer a candidate calling for required minimum staffing standards in nursing homes so that residents could receive quality care. According to AARP, Wisconsin has nearly 600,000 unpaid family caregivers.
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This story was written by Mike Moen, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.