In a poll of 600 caregivers, 87% of respondents said their top concerns were Medicare and Medicaid, health care reform, and the economy. This comes as no surprise, since caregivers are one of the largest underfunded, under-supported, and unrecognized groups in America. Even with a population of 65 million, family caregivers are barely addressed in the political arena. According to Margo E. Schreiber, former director of the Illinois Department on Aging, this is because caregivers most likely aren’t active advocates– they are so immersed in their day-to-day responsibilities that they forget they can have enormous political clout. Suzanne Mintz, co-founder of the National Family Caregivers Association, believes many family caregivers don’t connect their circumstances to a larger societal issue.

However, that doesn’t mean the family caregiver isn’t a force to be reckoned with, politically speaking. The hardest-working and successful caregiver advocates were formally caregivers themselves. In addition, nearly half of Americans who vote at election time are over the age of 50, many of them already involved in caring for another and aware of the issues the population faces. Often legislators and politicians are witnesses or participants in care for a loved one.

Eighty percent of long-term care in this country is provided by a family member, saving the country billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Our country would collapse financially without family caregivers.

Since family caregivers are serving the community, that community should ensure that caregivers have jobs when they are ready to return to work, health and disability insurance throughout their time of service, the ability to save money for retirement, and approval and collegiality from their community. – Joanne Lynn, Sick to Death and Not Going to Take it Anymore!

Imagine if 65 million caregivers created their own political platform, like they did in Australia? The needs of family caregivers aren’t specific to that demographic– most of our nation faces severe economic insecurity and lacks the resources to provide for the future generation. Medicare is facing insolvency. Caregivers, as a unified force, have a tremendous influence– it’s time we leverage it.

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