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Nebraska family caregivers provide invaluable service, provide billions in unpaid care

Deborah Van Fleet

(Nebraska News Connection) Many Nebraskans know how crucial a family caregiver is to one of their family members. Now AARP research has put a dollar value on that unpaid care - $2.8 billion dollars in 2021. Nearly 180,000 Nebraskans provided family caregiving that year. The organization has calculated the value on a state-by-state basis in the latest report of their "Valuing the Invaluable" series. 

Todd Stubbendieck AARP Nebraska director said these caregivers are often making it possible for their family members to "age in place."

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"Because without the support of those family caregivers, many people would be forced to go into a long-term care or an assisted-living situation," he said. "In addition, not being able to live more independently - which we know is what people want - many of the costs of that care would then get shifted to taxpayers. "

Stubbendieck added it is important for Nebraska family caregivers to learn about the support programs available to them, including the statewide Aging and Disability Resource Center. Since 2021, Nebraskans who leave work to care for a family member are eligible to collect unemployment insurance if they meet certain requirements. This session, state Senator Machaela Cavanaugh (D-Omaha) introduced The Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act, LB-57, which would provide paid leave to Nebraskans who must leave work to care for themselves or a family member. 

Stubbendieck said often people do not consider themselves a family caregiver.  

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"They're supporting a grandparent or a parent or even a child because that's what we do. And because they don't know that they are a family caregiver, sometimes they don't access the support and help they need," he said. 

AARP estimates the value of family caregivers nationwide in 2021 was more than $600-billion dollars - up more than $200 billion in just five years. The report's recommendations include implementing more of the 350 actions in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers. It also highlights the need to strengthen the Family Medical Leave Act and make sick leave more widely available for workers who need to take family members to medical appointments and procedures.