Family caregivers are some of the most under appreciated people in our society. They do everything within their means to make sure their loved ones can stay in their homes as long as possible.

“While we often refer to these family caregivers as Wisconsin’s unsung heroes, they are not superheroes,” said Helen Marks Dicks, the state issues advocacy director for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Wisconsin. “They are struggling and could really use our help.”

AARP Wisconsin has joined a group of bipartisan lawmakers to help introduce two bills that will benefit family caregivers. We support these bills.

The first bill, called the Credit for Caring Act, would create a $500 individual income tax credit for certain expenses incurred by a family caregiver.

The second bill, called the Caregiver, Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, would require hospitals to: Engage with caregivers by recording the name of the family caregiver when a loved one is admitted to a hospital; keep a family caregiver informed on major decisions like transferring or discharging the patient; and provide instructions on the medical tasks the family caregiver may need to perform once the patient is home. 

In Wisconsin, there are nearly 600,000 unpaid family caregivers. An AARP study shows that those individuals provide about 538 million hours of care to their parents, spouses, partners and other adult loved ones. In addition, they spend an average of $7,000 per year on out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving.

They provide this care while also keeping up with their jobs and households.

Marks Dicks points out that caregivers provide various levels of care. Tasks may include giving baths, preparing meals, paying bills or driving a loved one to a doctor’s appointment. She said higher levels of care may consists of wound treatment, dialysis support and feeding tube maintenance.

“As these caregivers face physical, emotional and financial challenges, we can take these simple legislative steps that would help make their lives a little bit easier,” Marks Dicks said.

AARP officials are optimistic both of the bills will become law because they are bipartisan and because caregiving affects virtually everyone at some point in their lives.

We encourage citizens to take the advice of AARP leaders to contact lawmakers and encourage the passage if these two bills. They both make sense and will help thousands of selfless caregivers.