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There are more than 483,000 Iowans aged 65 years and older. That’s 16 percent of the state’s 3.1 million people. But by 2030, that number will balloon to nearly 600,000, or more than 20 percent.
That sharp increase brings with it a need for more services and supports – from the state and federal governments’ perspective, on the business end, and within our communities. And we don’t just need support for aging Iowans. We need to put policies in place that will aid the estimated 350,000 Iowans currently caring for loved ones and the Iowans who will one day be caring for a family member or friend.
In Iowa, family caregivers provide 295 million hours of unpaid care valued at more than $3.9 billion, according to AARP.
These issues and possible solutions were discussed Tuesday in Des Moines during The Gazette’s first Iowa Ideas Health Care symposium.
Here are some big ideas from our expert panel:
-- Anthony Carroll, associate state director of advocacy for the Iowa chapter of AARP – A federal proposal by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and several other colleagues on both sides of the aisle would create an up-to $3,000 nonrefundable tax credit adjusted to inflation for family caregivers. This could help ease the financial burdens placed on family caregivers, who on average spend nearly $7,000 in out-of-pocket expenses each year, according to AARP.
-- John Hale, owner of the Hale Group – State legislators should take another look at House File 275, a bill introduced this legislative session but did not make it out of subcommittee. The bill would have tasked the Iowa Department of Public Health to lead a coordinated effort to address recruitment and retention issues for direct care professionals (Certified Nursing Assistants and in-home care workers, among others). This sector has high turnover and low pay but plays a critical role in caring for the elderly and disabled.
-- Jim Cushing, executive director for the Iowa Association of the Area Agencies on Aging – Sixty percent of caregivers work. Juggling a job and the care of a loved one is stressful and can hurt productivity as well. On average, family caregivers lost 6.6 work days per year due to their caregiving duties. Businesses need to look at ways to provide supports to this growing portion of the workforce through innovative ideas like paid leave for family caregiving, adult on-site day care and allowing more flexible schedules for employees.
Read more about aging and caregiving in Iowa: