Few truths are as essential to being human as receiving and giving care. At some point in our lives, we all need to be cared for and need to assume the role of caregiver. Children require caregiving from parents, and older adults need their families to help them as they age.

More than 1 in 5 Americans are family caregivers. Yet the U.S. faces a caregiving crisis of immense proportion. Support for individuals, families and the care workforce is severely lacking while America is entering an elder boom, with all baby boomers turning 65 or older by 2030. That’s 10,000 people turning 65 every day. Their millennial children are far from ready for this elder care crisis. The prospect of finding themselves in the “sandwich generation,” made up of those caring for elderly parents and young children at the same time, is real.

About 70 percent of people over 65 will need long-term care for an average of three years. Given that one year in a nursing home can cost over $80,000 and is not covered by Medicare, 80 percent of care falls to family members, according to the advocacy organization Caring Across Generations.

And those caregivers are tired. The vast majority (96 percent) reported feeling emotionally drained from the day-to-day challenges of caregiving, according to a recent survey from A Place for Mom, an organization offering guidance for families looking for senior living and home care.

This unsustainable set of circumstances extends into other parts of caregivers’ lives and the economy, including their ability to work. Three-quarters of people who were employed before they became caregivers said they have less time to focus on work or had to quit their jobs to provide care.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Solutions for creating a care economy that works for everyone exist today, provided there is sufficient political will, employer support, public awareness, and individual and collective resolve to change the trajectory.

“I believe caregiving was always meant to be a collective endeavor,” Ai-jen Poo, president of the National Domestic Worker's Alliance and director of Caring Across Generations, told TriplePundit. “It was never meant to be shouldered by individuals within families alone. Because this has been such a simmering crisis for so long, we are all coming to the realization that we need to do more than just ‘woman up and figure it out.’”

Caregivers are stretched to their limits
Women are at the center of the care economy — particularly women of color — making the caregiving crisis an issue of gender, racial and social equity. In the U.S., 4 in 5 care workers are women, and women of color make up a growing segment of this essential workforce. In families, women make up three-quarters of caregivers, according to A Place For Mom.

Yet women in both categories lack the conditions necessary to do their jobs well and maintain their quality of life. People of color in the direct care workforce have the lowest family income and lowest annual earnings of any racial or ethnic group, earning an average of $12 an hour with annual wages of only $17,200. Not surprisingly, this leads to a turnover rate of 26 percent.

Low pay and poor working conditions for the paid care workforce, lack of supportive policies for both paid and family caregivers, and the pressure on families and individuals have created a perfect storm that needs to be addressed now, Poo said.

Read the full article about caregiving crisis by Amy Brown at Triple Pundit.