It’s difficult to overstate the pandemic’s disorienting disruption to our daily lives. Since March, Texans have weathered lockdown measures, endured extended separation from loved ones in long-term care facilities and reckoned 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, such as providing much-needed companionship, managing medications and helping with important health tasks such as wound care, allows Texans to age with dignity. Their work 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. And 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.
We know that many Texans, especially those in rural areas, lack sufficient access to broadband (high-speed connection to the Internet) and telehealth options for medical care. 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