Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit with an advocate for the working caregiver. You know them, they are the people who are working yet still manage elder care responsibilities; the people who put careers on hold (or at risk); the people who save the government billions of dollars in unreimbursed care expenses; people like me..
The very next day the Idaho Statesman published an article about this topic. (http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/02/19/2457638/caught-in-the-parent-care-trap.html). Later that week a report was published about the economic burden faced by America’s family caregivers (http://www.parkinsonsaction.org/news/14-4-billion-economic-burden-of-parkinson-s-disease-takes-toll-on-families). Coincidence or evidence of an epidemic?
The case of the working caregiver is the other, often hidden, side of diseases like Parkinson’s. I advocate for protected NIH funding for biomedical research because we desperately need a cure and even a one year delay in research can add 15 years for a cure to reach the hands of patients. I advocate for better access to medical care to the Veterans we made promises to, who have developed diseases like Parkinson’s due to chemical exposure and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). I advocate for Congress to protect these things in the face of looming sequester, all without any consideration to the costs of the working caregivers, the people like me.
There are no easy answers facing Congress. I’ve seen the charts and graphs that spell out the future debt for Medicare and other programs. What those charts leave out is the debt burden currently being paid by working caregivers. The smart decision is to invest in research for cures and prevention now, and spare future generations the burden of ever knowing what it means to be a working caregiver at all.