According to a study on workplace benefits for elder care, rural caregivers who care for elderly family members are less likely to receive benefits than urban employees who do the same. These helpful benefits include paid leave, flex time, and the option of telecommuting.
Rural caregivers often have to balance that responsibility with their duties at their job while facing other challenges unique to rural communities. Geography is often an obstacle, as a caregiver’s workplace tends to be farther from where their loved one lives. Rural populations also tend to be older and with less population density in those areas, there tends to be fewer volunteers at any given moment.
These volunteers provide about 90% of all long-term care that elders receive in the United States. Across the country, approximately 44 million Americans provide unpaid care for elderly loved ones. Although nursing homes and senior care facilities can offer full-time services for the elderly, more people are choosing to age in place. Seniors want to stay in their homes and to do so they’re making aging in place-related home modifications, with 62% of builders working on these projects.
While these modifications can help seniors get around the home, many still need caregivers to check on them. Rural caregivers provide an average of 16 hours of care a week that can include tasks such as scheduling doctor appointments, shopping for groceries, and refilling medication prescriptions. These caregivers do this work unpaid and often without any assistance from their workplaces.
The professional caregiving industry isn’t faring much better than the volunteer. Within the coming decades, researchers have projected a shortage of several hundred thousand home care workers. People are not joining the profession because the pay tends to be low with meager protections. The work of caring for others can also be exhausting, emotionally draining, and grueling. With little monetary reward, many do not see the profession as worthwhile.
Regardless of interest in the profession, many families cannot afford home care services. It currently cost upwards of $40,000 a year to have full-time help and while Medicaid coverage varies by state, Medicare doesn’t cover any of the costs. These complications then put the responsibility of care on unpaid volunteers, but without proper support from their full-time jobs, the elderly may be left on their own more often.