New data from AARP offers a glimpse at the value of unpaid care in Delaware

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New data from AARP suggests the value of unpaid care provided by the caregivers in Delaware is increasing.

From 2017 to 2021, the number of unpaid caregivers in the state decreased from 129,000 to 124,000, but the number of hours of unpaid care delivered increased from 108 million to 116 million.

The total economic value of care increased by over $300 million from $1.58 million to $1.89 million. That’s according to the latest report in the AARP’s “Valuing the Invaluable” series exploringfamily caregiving.

“These are people who often work full time jobs and have other family responsibilities and financial responsibilities. So they balance work and caring and tap into their own financial resources to help pay for a loved one,” said AARP of Delaware Communications Director Kimberly Wharton.

She adds the burden was exacerbated by the pandemic.

“If they weren’t doing some of these services at home it would cost states billions of dollars. If they were to pay direct care workers to do some of the things these home health aids are doing. So we really think the pandemic brought to light the tension many of these caregivers are experiencing,” she said.

The report calls on policymakers to address the long term impacts of unpaid care, including loss of income, as well as reduced social security and retirement benefits. With 61% of family caregivers working either full or part time, workplace flexibility is critical.

Wharton says that’s where the Healthy Delaware Families Act helps.

“It was found that even with paid family leave legislation in states, people don’t take more time off. They’re just getting paid during that time, and they’re experiencing less stress and more productivity at work because they don’t have the financial burden they’d normally have for taking time off and not getting paid,” Wharton explained.

Delaware’s paid family leave law allows most Delawareans to take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave through the State's paid leave trust fund to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Wharton says while there’s still work to do, Delaware has made strides in supporting family caregivers.

The Aging in Place Working Group and the Long Term Care and Memory Care Task Force are both working to address supporting care workers in the First State.

And in 2016 the CARE Act was passed, helping to ease the burden of caregivers post-op when their family member visits the hospital. It requires increased communication between caregivers and hospitals when discharging a family member, allowing the caregiver to better understand any additional medical tasks that need to be carried out at home.

In addition to advocating for legislative change, the AARP of Delaware also works to provide emotional support for caregivers through programming. That can be found at

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Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.