JEANNETTE, Pennsylvania – Ray Newbaker broke his hip and has dementia at the age of 90.

She turned the lives of her two grown children upside down and moved in with her son Jay when she could no longer support herself. Her daughter Paula also moved in to help with the care.

The Newbakers are not alone.

As the baby boom generation ages, families are trying to figure out how to keep their parents away from nursing homes – which became even less attractive when Covid-19 ravaged assisted living facilities – while meeting their growing and expensive needs. And they are on the verge of becoming the center of a political struggle in Washington.

Republicans dig in and portray Democrats’ eldercare proposal as ruthless and too expensive. Democrats believe it is a fight they can win with the voters, in part because the Newbakers are not an anomaly.

Ray Newbaker needs 24/7 help preparing her meals, getting her out of bed, helping with her personal hygiene, and calming her down if her dementia is causing hallucinations that get worse at night. Add doctor visits, sort out her insurance claims, and make sure she has a social life.

Home help Jodi Caye helps Rae Newbaker walk through her house. Frank Thorp V / NBC News

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” said Paul Newbaker. “It’s just the stress of taking care of them properly, which is so difficult to cope with as an adult child, and then the financial burden is always ticking in the back of my head.”

Resources are expensive for the millions of Americans caring for elderly or disabled loved ones. Government assistance is provided through Medicaid, but only those with the lowest incomes will qualify, and many who do will not receive assistance as many states limit the number of eligible recipients and have long waiting lists.

The Newbakers pay out of pocket to have a nurse come 24 hours a week. They are not eligible for Medicaid until they have used up their mother’s savings, and then they fear that they will not have enough money to continue to take care of them.

Jay Newbaker worries that it will not be sustainable.

“I call it The Twilight Zone, where we do too much for Medicaid and still not earn enough, where we can afford high quality 24/7 care for my mother,” he said. “So we’re stuck.”

The Democrats invested $ 300 billion in expanding home care for the elderly and disabled in the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill known as the American Families Plan. The measure would provide incentives for states to raise their income ceilings to 300 times the poverty line, or around $ 38,600 per person. Democrats believe that this would allow another 3.2 million people to receive domestic help.

“The only option shouldn’t be long-term care in a nursing home,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. “The only way to do this is to use a great program called Medicaid to deliver on that promise.”

Republicans launch an all-out messaging flash, accusing Democrats of “reckless tax and shopping frenzy,” saying the American Families Plan would lead to higher inflation and a suffering economy.

Democrats say they are not afraid of the price tag or Republican claims about inflation. They refer to internal polls that Lake Research Partners conducted for House Democrats and obtained from NBC News. Internal polls found that the elderly care proposal is one of the most popular items on their agenda with likely Democratic voters.

Rae Newbaker descends the stairs with the help of Jodi Caye.
Frank Thorp V / NBC News

Two-thirds of voters felt it was important to expand access to home care for the elderly and disabled, and 48 percent strongly supported it. It’s more popular than free pre-kindergarten and childcare assistance for middle-class families.

The poll spoke to 900 voters likely by 2022. The core support for the policy comes from women, younger voters, black voters and Latinas, pollers said in a summary. Voters believe that elderly care, childcare and long-term care are “very important to a thriving economy and the economic security of families.”

The poll was presented to members of the Democratic Caucus as they prepare to write the details of the $ 3.5 trillion plan. Democratic leaders will be doing a difficult tightrope act over the next few weeks as they decide what to include in the measure and how much to spend on each category, which is expected to include paid family leave and an extension of the child discount, and free preschool – and adult education centers as well as aggressive initiatives on climate change.

Progressives have said $ 3.5 trillion is not enough to change the economy. Moderate Democrats point out the risk of inflation.

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., A member of the House Women’s Caucus, looked after her father, who had a stroke, her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, and three young children when she ran for Congress. She said caring for the elderly was a priority.

“Even though I had resources and opportunities, it was really a real challenge for me. And that story plays out every day for parents and women across the country, ”Clark said in an interview. “It is long overdue that we recognize how fundamental the care agenda and the care industry are for our economy in general.”

Democrats are also calling for provisions to ensure that home care workers earn a living wage through reporting guidelines and by requiring a minimum wage set by region.

The Newbakers’ home nurse, Jodi Caye, who has been caring for the elderly for 25 years, has been with her family for nearly two years. She said she temporarily quit the job because she could make more money elsewhere, but was returning to work for the Newbakers.

Caye said that if she doesn’t get more hours or a higher wage soon, because of the boundaries created by Covid precautions, she has to go and find something that pays you more.

“There are people out there who work at McDonald’s. So you make more money than me, ”said Caye.