Wyoming Family Caregivers Provide $980 Million in Unpaid Care
CHEYENNE, Wyo. | ERIC GALATAS, (Public News Service) – Some 74,000 unpaid caregivers in Wyoming provide an estimated 62 million hours of care each year, valued at $980 million, according to AARP’s latest Valuing the Invaluable report.
Sam Shumway, state director of AARP Wyoming, says caregivers are a crucial component of the health care system in Wyoming and it’s important to continue to support them.
“Without those people providing transportation and help around the house, without those caregivers, those individuals would end up either paying for that care out of their own pocket, or the state of Wyoming would end up paying for those individuals,” he states.
Unpaid caregivers also help Wyoming taxpayers by making it possible for people to age in their homes, which most older residents prefer.
The average cost of in-home care through Wyoming Home Services is $1,500 per year, compared with $51,000 a year for state-funded nursing homes.
Shumway says the report also is an opportunity to put a spotlight on an army of people working without pay or recognition caring for family members and neighbors.
He adds that Wyoming could help lighten the load by implementing a self-directed care program, similar to efforts under way through Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.
“Through just reimbursing the costs of transportation, or some of these folks need to take time off work,” he states. “If we could support that a little more directly, we could help keep people in their homes, and we could grow that caregiver pool.”
Last year AARP Wyoming worked with lawmakers on ways the state could invest in home and community-based services that help residents age in home.
In 2019, the state Legislature increased funding for the Wyoming Home Services Program by $225,000, and Wyoming Senior Centers another $225,000.