Family caregivers are often unsung heroes at home and certainly are unsung heroes within our economy. More than 53 million Americans – 21% of the US population – are caregivers for loved ones who are older adults or adults living with chronic, disabling, or serious health conditions. Increasingly, the US health and long-term care systems rely on family caregivers. In 2017, family caregivers in the US provided a staggering 80% of long-term care, valued at $470 billion. Today, the value and volume of unpaid care is undoubtedly greater.

While most people are unaware of these astounding figures, family caregivers themselves, government, employers, corporate funders, and private philanthropy are starting to pay greater attention to supporting this significant part of the population. Philanthropy is emerging as a major and expanding source of innovation, advocacy, and support for family caregiving in the US.

Government and corporate support for family caregivers is increasing, particularly as employers struggle to retain workers and meet hiring needs. Policy advances to support caregivers have emerged, such as the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, the American Jobs Plan, and recent expansions in Medicare coverage that signal increased recognition and support for millions of family caregivers. In March 2022, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission issued guidance warning employers not to discriminate against family caregivers – an indication that caregivers are becoming a recognized and protected workforce.

As with many issues, government and corporate support alone may not be enough to affect change – there is great opportunity for private funders to play a critical role. Today, funders invest in communications, advocacy, public policy research, program initiatives, and evaluation to support a range of strategies to advance family caregiving. This includes the critical work to advance policies and systems to better recognize and support the nation’s care economy in crisis after more than two years on the front lines of a global pandemic.

In just five years, Grantmakers in Aging’s Family Caregiver Funders Community has grown to more than 40 participating foundations nationwide. These funders are working to identify sustainable public and private solutions that reinforce the critical role and sustain the health, well-being, and effectiveness of family caregivers. For example, TPI recently engaged in work supporting the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. FoundationHealth Foundation for Western and Central New York, and Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation to launch a large regional program called Exhale, The Family Caregiver Initiative. Exhale aims to reimagine respite using creative problem solving and elements of human-centered design to increase the range and supply of respite opportunities for family caregivers throughout Western New York and Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Read the full article about family caregiving by Lisa Payne Simon at The Philanthropic Initiative.