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There are 18 million family caregivers in the U.S., and that number is only expected to grow in the coming years as we live longer.

Caregivers often perform selflessly, even heroically, at a cost to their own health and finances, to take care of aging relatives, loved ones, and friends. Almost half conduct complicated medical tasks normally provided by trained doctors and nurses — tasks like medication management and wound care. And the care they provide is conservatively valued at more than $200 billion annually.

Grantmakers have played a leading role in calling attention to the unmet needs of caregivers and funding programs that can give them the help, training, and support they deserve. Caregivers are a critical component to improving health care for all. Here are some examples of programs made possible by grantmakers:

Families Caring for an Aging America is required reading for any organization c­­onsidering funding in caregiving. Published by the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the report is also a sterling example of how funders working together can amplify their impact. The report was supported by a wide range of foundations and organizations, including: Alliance for Aging Research; Alzheimer’s Association; Archstone Foundation; California HealthCare Foundation; Commonwealth Fund; Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation; Health Foundation of Western and Central New York; The John A. Hartford Foundation; May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust; Retirement Research Foundation; The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation; Santa Barbara Foundation; and Tufts Health Plan Foundation. It also received funding from the S. Department of Veterans Affairs and an anonymous donor.

The comprehensive report provides an overview of the prevalence and nature of family caregiving of older adults as well as its personal impact on caregivers’ health, economic security, and overall well-being. The report also examines the available evidence on the effectiveness of programs and interventions designed to support family caregivers. It concludes with recommendations for developing a national strategy to effectively engage and support them. A PDF of the full report can be downloaded for free from the National Academies website.

The Archstone Foundation approved a four-year, $510,000 grant to support the inclusion of a module on family caregiving in the 2019-20 California Health Interview Survey. It will mark the first time since 2009 that the caregiving module is included in the survey. Policymakers, researchers, health exper​ts, media representatives, and others depend on the survey for credible and comprehensive data on the health of Californians. Archstone also awarded a $180,000 grant to the University of Southern California (USC) to support the work of the California Task Force on Family Caregiving, a 12-member group appointed by the California Legislature. USC will assist in convening meetings to compile, organize, and provide state-of-the-art information to the task force, with the ultimate goal of improving outcomes for California’s family caregivers and their care recipients. An interim report was released in January 2017, and complete policy recommendations will be released in July 2018.

AARP is leading the Home Alone Alliance, a partnership of public, private, and nonprofit sector organizations working to create solutions to provide desperately needed training and support to family caregivers who perform complex medical/nursing tasks. Almost half of our nation’s 18 million family caregivers say they perform complex medical/nursing tasks such as handling prescriptions, helping someone climb the stairs with a cane, and caring for and cleaning wounds—often with no training or support from health professionals. The John A. Hartford Foundation awarded a $1.3 million grant to the AARP Foundation to support the project, which will help health systems better serve these family caregivers by completing a national scan and sharing best practices in implementing the CARE Act. The model legislation, passed in 39 states, requires hospitals to identify and educate patients’ family caregivers before discharge. Home Alone Alliance members will create educational materials and conduct training for nurses and other health professionals to better work with family caregivers.

Local caregiver support programs are springing up across the country. For example, Santa Barbara Foundation has invested almost $600,000 in grants as part of its Community Caregiving Initiative, created to advance innovative solutions supporting people who need care and the people who care for them. The Community Caregiving Initiative seeks to establish effective caregiver support systems through the development of cross-sector networks of community organizations in health, social, education and other sectors. Among the grants awarded are $75,000 to help Marian Regional Medical Center integrate and expand new hospital support systems and social services for family caregivers of elderly residents, including those with dementia.

Archstone Foundation awarded a total of $45,000 in two grants to Horn of Africa Community in San Diego to support the Family Caregiver Training Program that trains and supports families providing in-home care for older adult refugee family members. The non-profit organization, founded in 1995, promotes the successful integration and physical and emotional health of the East African refugee population in San Diego.

In the western suburbs of Chicago, the Caring Together, Living Better program has been building a community-driven support system for those who care for older adults since 2009. The Retirement Research Foundation awarded a $55,000 grant to AgeOptions, Inc., the program’s project leader, to support the program that provides culturally competent caregiver support through a network of local churches.

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