It’s difficult to overstate the pandemic’s disorienting disruption to our daily lives. Since March, Texans have weathered lockdown measures and extended separation from loved ones in long-term care facilities while reckoning with a future plagued with uncertainty. Perhaps none have felt this weight as acutely as family caregivers.
Texas is home to 3.3 million unpaid family caregivers who play an indispensable role in our communities. Their invaluable work — providing much-needed companionship, managing medications, helping with important health tasks such as wound care and more — allows Texans to age with dignity and amounts to an estimated 3.1 billion hours of unpaid care. That’s a colossal contribution valued at $35.5 billion annually.
Even before COVID-19 burst into our news cycles, many caregivers reported feeling highly strained and overwhelmed. AARP’s “Valuing the Invaluable” report finds that caregivers face an increased risk of chronic loneliness. For those with unreliable or limited internet access, the pandemic’s lockdown measures and social restrictions only exacerbate these issues. The bottom line is our caregivers are overwhelmed.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. It’s a great occasion to celebrate and recognize the heartfelt care family members provide their loved ones. At AARP Texas, we are proud to fight for family caregivers.
On ExpressNews.com: Get the latest update on coronavirus and a tracking map of U.S. cases
We know that many Texans, especially those in rural areas, lack sufficient high-speed internet access and telehealth options for medical care. Shockingly, around 927,000 Texans lack internet connectivity at home, according to a recent report from the Governor’s Broadband Development Council.
Family caregivers need reliable internet access to ensure that all who need to seek medical assistance can do so from the safety of their homes through telehealth. The ability to consult with health care professionals is particularly essential during the pandemic, when in-person visits carry their own risks.
Access to the internet also helps mitigate caregiver loneliness. Through online communications, caregivers can experience critical social connection, while still protecting their own and their care partner’s safety at a time when in-person activities contribute to the spread of the virus.
We’re living through a dynamic reality, with COVID-19 case counts changing daily. To stay up to date on valuable pandemic resources and information, caregivers require reliable online access — particularly as they often provide care to older Texans, more susceptible to the disease’s detrimental outcomes.
Deficient access to these services can make a bad situation worse for caregivers, the selfless people serving our most vulnerable. That’s why we call on Texas lawmakers to act to fill these gaps. When the Texas Legislature convenes in January, it’s vital that improving access to broadband and telehealth services be at the forefront — a step toward addressing the needs of unpaid family caregivers.
Tina Tran is state director of AARP’s Texas operations.
Website of source