Nearly 1 in 5 North Carolinians, about 1.3 million people, are family caregivers and provide essential support to their family members and friends with serious health problems, illnesses, and disabilities. This care is unpaid, but valued at about $13 billion dollars. Caregivers in NC face many challenges. A recent analysis led by alum Dr. Kate Miller in Milbank Quarterly of caregiver-friendly policies ranked North Carolina in the bottom 10% of states. In addition, a report that HPM graduate student and Sheps researcher Hannah Friedman contributed to on rural caregivers in North Carolina demonstrates high access barriers. Rural areas are growing older but have fewer job prospects to maintain a workforce able to tend to the growing number of older adults who need support.

Sheps research fellow Erin Kent, PhD and colleagues recently led a commentary in the North Carolina Medical Journal March/April Issue caregiving across the lifecourse, to call for a unified perspective on caregiving and an explicit focus on caregivers themselves to help strengthen supports for this essential population. These issues were also presented as part of the NC Caregiving Policy Summit, held on May 10-11.

State investment in caregiving may be increasing, as evident in the recent release of NC Executive Order 280 to shore up the state’s commitment to building an age-friendly state. As part of this effort, the NC Division of Health and Human Services is leading a multisector plan for aging called “All Ages, All Stages NC” which will provide a strategic framework and guidelines for promote equitable access to services and strengthen community engagement.