Long-term caregiving is crushing women’s finances. These states could chart a new path.
Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Lily
Carly Stern | 27 April 2021
After Angelena Taylor’s father survived a stroke in late 2015, she snapped into crisis mode.
A month into a master’s program for educational psychology, Taylor, now 33, took unpaid leave from her job. She didn’t want to send her dad to a facility, and his private health insurance didn’t cover home-care services, like help with bathing and meals, she said. So Taylor took on the primary responsibility for his care herself, managing everything from appointments to medication, spelled for half-day breaks by a professional home-care worker for up to $400 a week out of pocket.
Now, in the pandemic, that outside assistance has no longer been feasible. While Taylor managed to graduate on schedule, her caregiving and remote teaching work have kept her from completing one final step to launch her career: studying for board examinations to become a licensed clinician.
“I have all the materials I need,” said Taylor, who lives in Detroit. “I just need time to just center myself, focus and not have to put so much on being available as a care provider.”
But women not only give the majority of care in the United States — they also receive it. With pandemic death tolls in nursing and assisted-living facilities laying bare significant deficiencies in the country’s long-term care infrastructure, some experts believe the current model is unsustainable.
Americans have a “fantasized notion of what it will look like or mean to age in this country,” said Josephine Kalipeni, deputy director of Family Values at Work, an advocacy group for working caregivers.
Medicare, the insurer that typically covers adults over age 65, doesn’t pay for home care. Long-term care policies on the private market typically carry steep premiums, and many applicants are rejected. As a result, Medicaid — a state and federal program that provides health insurance to more than 64 million people in the United States — is “the only game in town when it comes to providing those [home and community-based care] services,” said Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy at the Arc of the United States, an organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Amid a devastating pandemic, and at an inflection point on systemic racism, caregiving in the United States is emerging as a quiet but massive driver of inequity for women — and for women of color like Taylor in particular. Women of color are more likely to be underpaid professional caregivers and unpaid family ones, and Black and Latino people become caregivers nearly 10 years earlier, on average, than their White peers, a 2015 AARP report found. They may take on such roles earlier as relatives experience higher burdens of chronic injury, illness and lower life expectancies as a result of structural racism, experts say.