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AARP: Texas needs more caregivers for aging population

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Roz Brown

(Texas News Service) One in five people across the United States is a full- or part-time caregiver, with those in Texas providing $41 billion in unpaid care each year, according to AARP. A study by the organization found 70 percent of voters would be more likely to support a candidate who backs proposals that would help family caregivers.

AARP Texas executive council member Eddie Orum said he was 60 before he became a caretaker for both his mother and his aunt, but many people are much younger when they take on the role.

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"We have about 31 million caregivers here in Texas, and that ends up being $41 billion in unpaid services," he said. "So, many of us are working part-time or full-time and also caregiving for our loved ones."

Orum said successful caretakers have resources and access to a team that also allows them to care for themselves. The Texas Legislature boosted the base wage for paid personal attendants in this year's session by 30 percent, from $8.11 to $10.60 starting Sept. 1 - but many could still be poor enough to qualify for food stamps and subsidized housing.

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Because people are living longer, one in six non-caregivers expects to become a caregiver within two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most do it willingly, Orum said, it can be a monumental task - from keeping track of doctor visits and medications to having emergency contacts close at hand.

"You have to know insurance requirements - whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, or no insurance," he said. "We involve ourselves with transportation, meals, making sure that the home is safe - whether they live with us or someplace else."

Around 79 percent of those providing care for adults are aged 50 or older, and 76 percent of care recipients are 65 and older. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to improve access to home-based care for veterans and enhance job quality for long-term care workers, but Orum said more needs to be done at the state level.