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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Family caregivers struggle to fill the gap in affordable long-term support and services

Woman holds hand of an elderly woman holding a cane.
In Florida, the report found two particular weaknesses in the affordability and access to long-term care and the lack of support offered to family caregivers.

Florida ranks 43rd in the nation for overall quality of long-term care for aging adults and people with disabilities, according to an AARP report.

Florida ranks well behind other states in supporting family caregivers, according to a new report by AARP.

The report, which acts as a state-by-state scorecard, evaluates the quality of long-term support and services for older adults, people with physical disabilities and caretakers.

In 2023, Florida was ranked 43rd in the nation for overall quality of care.

Screenshot of 2023 AARP Scorecard
The 2023 AARP scorecard analyzed data from 2020.

During a press conference in September, AARP policy director Susan Reinhard said the demand is growing for long-term support and services as the U.S. population skews older.

By 2035, adults over age 65 will outnumber children under 18, according to U.S. Census Bureau data included in the report.

"It's really critical that we improve the aging experience for all Americans across the country," Reinhard said. "And our ability to get this right — it largely depends on our ability to care for our loved ones, as a society."

The 2023 AARP scorecard of statewide long-term support and services systems evaluated five categories of care:

  • Affordability and access
  • Choice of setting and provider
  • Safety and quality
  • Support for family caregivers
  • Community integration

The report ranked Florida near the bottom, at 43 out of 51, citing significant weaknesses in the affordability and access to long-term care and the lack of support offered to family caregivers.
Rita Choula, with AARP, said that the cost of long-term care, services like a home health aide or a private nursing home room, is out of reach for many older adults nationally.

In Florida, the median household income is roughly $50,000 for adults over 65 while the average annual cost of home care is $39,000 and the cost of a private nursing home room is $115,705.

For those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay out of pocket for long-term support and services, Choula said that family caretakers overwhelmingly step in to shoulder the cost of care.

"Unfortunately, family caregivers — those family members, friends, neighbors — account for 48 million Americans," Choula said. "And they are stretched thin ... emotionally, financially and timewise."

Compared with other states, the report shows Florida lagged far behind in supporting family caregivers, like offering tax credits or flexible paid sick days to caretakers.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.