President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will soon be on the march to sell their ideas for the next four years to Georgians. Georgia has become one of the country’s biggest deciders over the last decade, and Peach State voters can expect a veritable barnstorming ahead of the election this fall. While a broad range of issues deserve attention, one topic that often gets overlooked but would be the perfect subject for candidates to stand out on – caregiving and pledging to assist Georgians who are caring for a loved one.

State Rep. Mesha Mainor

Caring for a sick or elderly loved one is one of the most selfless and worthwhile acts one can do, but it can be downright exhausting both physically and emotionally. On top of that, it’s usually unpaid work that’s financed directly by the person providing the care. Food, water, utilities, and medicine aren’t cheap – especially right now. In some cases, caregivers must also finance room and board at expensive nursing homes, adding a further layer to their financial obligations. In Georgia, data estimates indicate that unpaid caregiving is currently valued at a staggering $16.3 billion.

Georgia is home to more than 1.2 million family caregivers, while 15.1% of the state population is aged 65 or older. Caregiving is often an extremely taxing effort, essentially a full-time job on the part of a family member. It can take many forms, including everything from helping a loved one wash and dress in the morning to feeding them, buying them groceries, preparing meals, driving them to doctor’s visits and other appointments, and helping pay their bills.

It’s evident that caregivers in the Peach State and elsewhere are in need of more assistance from elected leaders as elderly relatives continue to live longer. Thankfully, Georgia has already taken steps to improve the situation. In 2022, Georgia passed its version of the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, the Georgia Caregivers Act, which requires hospitals to help support, train, and instruct caregivers on what they will need to do to care for their loved ones at home. This was an excellent first step to help alleviate the pressure caregivers deal with each day, but more can be done at the federal level to bring a national standard to the caregiving issue.

What better way to propose new policies to help caregivers than during an election year? Candidates need ways to stand out from the competition, and the 2024 presidential race is no different. President Biden and Donald Trump are going to be spending plenty of time in Georgia throughout the coming months. Why not bring some fresh ideas on caregiving to the table while they’re here? The same goes for our Congressional candidates. Georgia has 14 districts for the House of Representatives, meaning 14 members of Congress and their challengers have a chance to provide their own input on what needs to be done.

As a physical therapist practicing in home health for more than 20 years, I have a unique understanding that caregiving is an underrated and underrepresented issue in Washington. An election for the history books is already underway, and Georgians want to send leaders who will change this state of affairs to Washington.

Rep. Mesha Mainor represents the citizens of District 56, which includes portions of Fulton County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2020 and currently serves on the Education, Governmental Affairs, Regulated Industries and State Planning & Community Affairs committees.

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