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A Labor Day Thought: Caregiving is Work

Caregiving is work.

A creation of the labor movement, Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

On this day, many of us tend to think of people who leave their homes to go to work, people who commute to factories, offices, hospitals, schools, and other places of employment.

That’s not the only kind of work that makes our nation’s prosperity possible.

Take people who care for elderly loved ones, for instance. If you haven’t been called up on to join this hidden army of workers, one day you probably will be. Consider these statistics:

  • About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

  • The majority of caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

  • Approximately 39.8 million caregivers provide care to adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness or 16.6% of Americans. [Coughlin, J. (2010). Estimating the Impact of Caregiving and Employment on Well-Being: Outcomes & Insights in Health Management.]

  • About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. [Alzheimer's Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.]

What is this work worth?

  • At $470 billion in 2013, the value of unpaid caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care and total Medicaid spending in the same year, and nearly matched the value of the sales of the world’s largest company, Wal-Mart ($477 billion). [AARP Public Policy Institute. (2015). Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update.]

  • The economic value of the care provided by unpaid caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias was $217.7 billion in 2014. [Alzheimer's Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.]

That’s no small change.

No matter what your Labor Day holiday plans include, don’t forget about the contributions of the men and women who are caring for elderly family members. Their work is unpaid, unseen, and often unacknowledged—but it’s every bit as valuable.

Happy Labor Day from our family to yours!


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