Who Cares for the Caregivers?

Caregivers make up a sizable volunteer workforce in California — people who put in about 1.7 billion hours of care last year and didn’t get paid for it. If they did, all of that work is valued at more than $20 billion. In California, where more than 10,000 people turn 65 every day, the need for that workforce will only grow.

That’s according to a raft of testimony yesterday at the Capitol Building in Sacramento, before a joint hearing of two committees: Human Services and Aging and Long-Term Care.

The state doesn’t do much for this vast and contributing population, and is about to do even less, according to Michelle Pope, executive director for Alzheimer’s Services of the East Bay, who testified yesterday before the joint committee.

“Recently in this state, we have looked at many, many cuts,” Pope said, from budget reductions in In-Home Supportive Services to fewer slots for adult day health care services.

“If you are a caregiver in California, you need all the support you can get,” Pope said. “Meals on Wheels, IHSS, MSSP (Multipurpose Senior Services Program), all of it. And all of these have had cuts. If we can’t provide for the caregivers of these people, then something is wrong.”

Assembly member and hearing co-chair Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) said long-term caregiver needs is a big topic, more than can be addressed in a single hearing. “[This] hearing will not go into the largest caregiving program, the wonderful IHSS service, and I did want to note that IHSS is the backbone of our state response,” Yamada said. “But we will be looking at the informal network of caregivers, and for the remaining middle class, what we can do to take care of our seniors, and not impoverish ourselves.”

The SCAN Foundation last fall issued a scorecard for California’s long-term care abilities. The results were mixed, according to Lisa Shugarman of SCAN. “We do a great job in terms of access, but there is room for improvement in quality,” Shugarman said. “We have some work to do.”

Ken Erman, with RX Staffing and Home Care in Sacramento, testified that the overarching goal, both for the state and for individuals, is to keep as many people as possible at home, and out of more-expensive board-and-care facilities or nursing homes.

Private home care organizations are one of the fastest-growing services in the U.S.,” Erman said, “and are clearly the model of care for the future.”

One of the budget cuts proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is elimination of the state’s Caregiver Resource Centers, and that’s bad news for caregivers in remote areas, according to Susanne Rossi of the Mountain Caregiver Resource Center, based at Chico State University.

“The rural providers are those least likely to ask for help,” Rossi said, “and those are the ones who need it most. Elimination of the CRCs would leave a critical gap in any long-term care plan.”

Related Topics

Capitol Desk