Mar 20, 2023 - News

Growing number of Iowans are caring for seniors without help

Illustration of a heart-shaped quilt.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A growing number of Iowa families are providing care to aging family members, according to a new report by AARP.

Why it matters: Caregivers can struggle with a number of ailments from the added stress, such as increased depression and anxiety, especially if they have another job.

By the numbers: AARP's report on family caregivers, its first since the pandemic began, found that in Iowa, caregivers for aging relatives increased from 314,000 in 2019 to 330,000 in 2021.

  • Iowa families spend an estimated 310 million hours annually assisting aging adults, according to the report.
  • That equates to $5.2 billion in unpaid care, as the average pay for caregivers in the state is around $16.80 an hour.

State of play: The number one driver for the increase is changing demographics, Brad Anderson, Iowa's AARP state director, tells Axios.

  • For the first time in U.S. history, people ages 65 and older will make up more of the population than those 18 and under by 2034.

Zoom in: Iowa also has a higher than average shortage of workers at its nursing homes, particularly in rural areas.

  • Nearly 43% of Iowa nursing homes are experiencing shortages as of February. The national average is 22.9%.
  • Care centers were also hit hard by COVID-19, Anderson says.
  • For example, a nursing home in Lynn County held an emergency evacuation of its residents due to a lack of staff and then permanently closed down on Feb. 28 without providing 60 days' notice as required by the state, Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.

What's next: Innovation will be necessary to help families balance their needs while ensuring their loved ones are cared for, Anderson says.

  • AARP is currently piloting smart homes in Charles City that include technology to help caregivers check on their loved ones.

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