by Janine M Lodato
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There are 50 million informal caregivers (family and friends) in the USA. They attend to the 100 million people in need of caregiving. Both the caregivers and the care recipients need political support by a politician with courage and foresight who should serve as the next President.
We need a tax break for businesses, especially for small businesses, when they hire and retain an informal caregiver as an employee. Businesses already have a tax break when they employ a disabled person. The same or similar tax break should be given to the business which hires informal caregivers or who already employ such caregivers.
It is imperative to create legislation which will enable the caregivers to do tele-work from the homes of the people in need of care. These are the so called informal caregivers, family and friends, who work without pay and provide unbelievably valuable service. Then the caregivers and care recipients would tele-campaign for legislation which would provide tax credits to the businesses who allow their employees to perform tele-work style.
There could also be major political support for this project by means of allowing businesses to receive carbon credits for each day they allow each of their employees to perform tele-work style. Then the business could sell these carbon credits, which is becoming a very large market.
In addition to allowing the caregivers to earn a living tele-work style from the homes of the care recipients they could also participate in tele-training to improve their abilities. Then they can become field representatives for the assistive technology industry, for alternative energy industry, for independent living home improvement industry and tele-work part time to very efficiently serve these industries and allowing the companies of these industry segments to penetrate markets which would not be available to them otherwise.
We could create a Presidential campaign based on legislation which would provide a tax break to the employers of caregivers. This campaign issue would assure that such a candidate certainly would be supported by much of the above 150 million population segment of the USA: caregivers and care recipients, as well as by the small business owners.
The US Department of Labor predicts that by 2008, 54 percent of the work force will be involved in caring just for an elderly person making doctors' appointments, handling emergencies, giving transportation, buying and cooking food, all the basic functions of life the elderly person has difficulties performing.
But the informal caregivers who are also full time employed have a major problem; not everyone is able to manage the conflicting demands of working and caregiving.
A MetLife study reported that 16 percent of employees who perform as caregivers quit their jobs and 13 percent retired early in order that they could provide caregiving to the people in need. This study found that the average life-time loss per such person was an estimated $ 566 thousand in lost wages, $ 67 thousand in lower pension benefits, plus $ 25 thousand loss of Soc. Sec. benefits.
Also, many of the employees who are caregivers get passed over for promotions and are the first ones who are eliminated when a downsizing of the business takes place.
The legislation which would support the employers of the caregivers could also include a double or increased tax break for the employer if the business would allow the employees, who are involved in caregiving, to perform most of their work with great degree of flexibility such as telecommuting and flexible time.
The telemedicine, telehealth application segment alone can justify this campaign since it is the fastest growing problem in the USA. The future of the economy will, to a large degree, depend on a good solution for the largest problem: the runaway cost of healthcare. Telemedicine, telehealth would be great help to solve this problem. The family and informal caregivers can become the ones who take and report the vital signs of the care recipients, thus lowering the cost of medicine.
The caregiver can also help the care recipient to participate in clinical trials and do the necessary reporting. The monitoring the general condition and vitals of the care recipient even when the caregiver is not on location can be accomplished via the Web by the video capable Web terminal products allowing tele-conferencing so the care recipient would not feel alone.
An elegant statement from the family caregiver organization puts it just right:
There are more than 50 million family caregivers in the USA and they provide 80
percent of the long term care services to the 100 million homebound people in need of care.
These uncompensated services provided by the caregivers amount to more than 400 billion dollars annually.
Recently in a Fortune article Dr. Andy Grove made some very important and eloquent statement regarding the healthcare costs in the USA. His comments relate especially to the cost of care for the people who are in need of home based care: the frail elderly, the chronically ill and the disabled, about a 100 million in the USA alone. Medical spending in the USA is at 16% of the GDP and it is the fastest growing segment. The average American spends 440,000 dollars in his/her lifetime on healthcare. 280,000 of which will be spent after age 65 and approximately 50% of this will be spent on assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. So it stands to reason that if there were a way to keep the people in need of care in their own homes longer we would have a better and lower cost system: we could save $ 300 billion per year.
Thus it is clear that the caregivers and the carerecipients need political representation. They would be a loyal supporter of the Presidential candidate who represents them.
About the author
I have gained deep insight into the requirements of the people in need of caregiving and their caregivers when I worked for John Garamendi, now Lieutenant Governor of California, then State Senator
I have many years of personal experience using AT and found it very helpful in SPMS (secondary progressive multiple sclerosis) conditions as described below in a brief review of my personal experiences.
In addition to my extensive experience with AT, I also have related graduate credentials from both California State Univ at Northridge (the center for AT corporate interactions) as well as CSU in Sacramento and UOP in Stockton.
To compensate for a total loss of motor skills due to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I have focused on the development and performance of mental tasks. I write articles. I create books, I play Scrabble all with the help of my caregiver hero husband Laszlo. We watch DVD movies and documentaries from Netflix, a great service indeed, and listen to magazines and books on tape provided by the Library of Congress, another worthwhile service to people with disability, delivered at no charge then we discuss the content of these.
I am absolutely sure I am avoiding the onset of cognitive problems, dementia and Alzheimer's. I firmly believe that using my brain in activities requiring the mind will continue to keep me productive in spite of my severe physical disability. My husband even jokes that I am causing him to develop dementia because I remember all the phone numbers, all the names, all the activities in which we have participated, so he gives himself permission to forget such information.
There are things I can still do such as think, talk, observe, feel, react, compose: all mental functions. I have been forced to concentrate on the mind oriented activities.
People around me marvel at how I seem so normal, even though I am very physically limited I am also very mentally active. Yes, I have a disability, but my mind and emotions still work fine, maybe even better thanks to my husband"-s efforts to keep me involved.
My husband reminds me frequently that "no one is disabled when on the Internet, when one interacts via the Web". So I use him as my VoxBot (voice robot) and KeyBot (a keyboard robot) when I want something quick via the Web.
I am the luckiest person on the face of the earth, as Lou Gehrig so appropriately announced in his farewell speech, that I am surrounded by the support of my hero husband, my family and my friends and they all appreciate my mind and ignore my physical disability.
Janine M. Lodato
SAN ANDREAS, CA.
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