New bipartisan legislation to support family caregivers is on its way to President Trump for his signature. The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act (RAISE) directs the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to develop and sustain a national strategy to recognize and support more than 40 million family caregivers in the United States.
The legislation (S.1028/H.R. 3759) was endorsed by more than 60 organizations focusing on aging or disability issues, according to the office of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), a co-sponsor. It passed unanimously in the Senate on Jan. 9 after the House approved it in December.
NextAvenue.org explains that the legislation will identify actions that employers, government, health providers and others can take to augment the medical, household and financial care from relatives and partners. The cost of uncompensated long-term care was an estimated $470 billion in 2013. Action may include caregiver training, respite options, caregiver-friendly workplace policies (such as New York’s recently enacted paid family leave policy), innovative caregiving models and addressing disparities around the unique needs of diverse caregivers and care recipients.
According to the National Alliance of Family Caregivers, “the bill also calls on HHS to convene a Family Caregiving Advisory Council to advise it on recognizing and supporting family caregivers. The council will be comprised of relevant federal agency representatives, as well as family caregivers, older adults with long-term services and support needs, health care providers, and other key players in the caregiving community.” The family caregiving advisory council will look at ways to help make caregiving a little bit easier, as the Huntington Herald-Dispatch in West Virginia reported.
“Family caregivers play an essential role in our communities by dedicating time and attention and making countless personal and financial sacrifices to care for their loved ones,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a written statement.
Collins was a co-sponsor and is a long-time family caregiving advocate. “I am delighted that the Senate unanimously passed our bipartisan legislation, which will develop a coordinated strategic plan to leverage our resources, promote best practices, and expand services and training available to caregivers,” she said.
Every day, millions of Americans provide care for parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities and other loved ones to help them live independently in their homes and communities, according to AARP, a strong supporter of the legislation. Family caregivers take on a range of tasks, from bathing and dressing to meal preparation, to handling finances and legal matters. This unpaid care means their loved ones can avoid or delay institutional care.
The RAISE Family Caregivers Act was supported by a broad bipartisan coalition of Senate cosponsors, including Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WVa.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). It was introduced in the House by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) with 113 co-sponsors.
Here are some resources and questions to ask when reporting on this issue:
- What programs or services are available in your community to support family caregivers?
- Does your state have a paid family leave law that goes beyond parental leave?
- What is your senator or representative doing to improve funding for senior centers, meals, transportation and other needs to help older adults remain independent and age in place?
- This AHCJ tip sheet offers a closer look at caregiving issues and more story ideas.
- AHCJ’s aging core topic resource list has links to additional reports, data, and studies on the issue.