OPINION: Alaska needs to better support caregivers

On the beautiful island of Wrangell where my family has deep roots spanning generations, hard work is not just a way of life; it’s ingrained in our very existence. As a caregiver in this tight-knit community, I’ve always embraced the notion that our work is critical to the well-being of our elders and those in need of extra support. It’s a labor of love, despite its backbreaking nature, because it brings a profound sense of satisfaction to know that I’m making a difference in the lives of my neighbors, friends, and family.

But lately, the work of a caregiver has taken a toll on my heart. Our system devalues our efforts, offering little in terms of pay and security. We’re expected to provide care with minimal resources and inadequate time, leaving us to scrape by on the bare minimum. Yet, because of who we are and what we believe in, we often find ourselves going above and beyond without fair compensation.

The sad reality is that fewer people are willing to enter this profession, not because they lack compassion, but because they simply can’t afford to choose it. The financial strain of caring for oneself and one’s family outweighs the desire to help others, leaving our communities with a shortage of caregivers. The heartbreaking truth is that many of our elders are left without the care and support they deserve simply because there aren’t enough of us to go around.

As I sat down with Sen. Bert Stedman recently, I was heartened to find a sympathetic ear and a shared commitment to ensuring that Alaskans can age with dignity and respect. We discussed the need to recognize caregiving as a profession worthy of honor and fair compensation. It’s not just about monetary gain; it’s about ensuring that caregivers can support ourselves and our families while continuing to serve our communities with dedication and compassion.

I implore our legislators to support a budget increment that directly benefits caregivers, providing us with the resources and recognition we deserve. Transparency in how funds are allocated is crucial to ensuring that caregivers are fairly compensated for our invaluable contributions to our society.

At its core, caregiving is a multigenerational endeavor, rooted in the desire to keep families together and uphold the traditions of our ancestors. For me, it’s about preserving our family home so that my aging mother can spend her final days in the place she loves. It’s about taking care of our community and ensuring that our elders can live out their golden years with dignity and respect.

Yes, caregiving is hard work, but that’s OK. What’s not OK is the unsustainable conditions under which we’re expected to operate. It’s time for our work to be recognized, honored, and fairly compensated. Let’s come together to support caregivers and uphold the values of hard work, compassion and community that define us as Alaskans.


Laurie Overbay-Barker is a caregiver in Wrangell.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.