RICHMOND, Va. – More than 1 million family caregivers in Virginia provided an estimated 870 million hours of unpaid care in 2017, worth a staggering $11 billion. That’s according to a new report from AARP coming out this Thursday.
To offer some relief to these caregivers, the group wants Commonwealth lawmakers to try again to pass an income tax credit in 2020 of up to $1,000 for families’ out-of-pocket expenses spent on caring for loved ones. Dave DeBiasi, associate state director with AARP Virginia, said it is much-needed.
“The care itself has become more complex, more costly, more stressful,” DeBiasi said. “There’s really competing demands, and caregivers just can’t do it all without a break.”
He said in the coming year, AARP Virginia will also advocate for paid leave from work for caregivers so they can tend to the needs of family members without risking their jobs. Virginia lawmakers also considered a caregivers’ tax credit in the 2019 session – but despite bipartisan support, the bill failed due to budget constraints.
Kim Muncy of Rocky Mount is an at-home caregiver for her son Derrick, who became a quadriplegic at age 25 after a near-fatal opioid overdose six years ago. To oversee his care, Kim quit her job as a hospice nurse. Then her husband Doug had to leave work two years ago after a back injury.
Kim said for her family living on a limited income, the tax credit would be a boon. One of Derrick’s many medical needs is to have the upper-body splints that are used to support his weakened muscles replaced when he grows out of them.
“If we were given an extra $1,000 right now, the first thing I would do is make an appointment to have his splints; they can enlarge them some, or even have new splints made with them,” Muncy said.
She said Derrick takes 12 different medications every day. One of their biggest struggles is what she described as a constant fight with Medicaid for prescription approvals.
“That’s probably my most frustrating thing, is to know that my son needs a medication, and that we could be in a hospital emergency room just because they don’t want to give us the medication until they get their paperwork,” she said.
Muncy added the family could use occasional help with the care-giving duties, but it’s been difficult to find trustworthy people.