Last week President Donald Trump signed the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which passed the US House on December 18th and the US Senate on January 9th with strong bipartisan support in each chamber. Despite the tenuous political landscape, it goes to show that there is strong understanding that nationally, more must be done to support the over 40 million family caregivers in the United States.
The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017—better known as the RAISE Family Caregivers Act—directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and maintain a national family caregiving strategy to address the needs of family caregivers. This plan must be developed within 18 months and the strategy must be updated every other year.
The act also establishes an advisory body that will bring together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to make recommendations that communities, providers, government and others may take to help caregivers. Some of the topics that will likely be addressed by the council include: respite services and options, workplace flexibility and financial security, and training support for navigating the healthcare system.
“The idea is to come up with best practices for health care providers and others, for employers to better support family caregivers and for government to better support family caregivers,” said Rhonda Richards, senior legislative representative of AARP. AARP championed the legislation, which received broad support from disability advocacy groups and other organizations, including the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC).
Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) were the bill’s primary sponsors in the Senate and the primary sponsor in the House was Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). Rep. Harper has real-life experience in the family caretaker role, having been caregiver to both his mother and his 28-year-old-son who suffers from Fragile X Syndrome.
According to AARP research, caregivers aged 50 and older who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, over $300,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime. The financial, emotional and physical burden of caregiving is compounded by the nation’s aging population and the sharply shrinking “caregiver support ratio”- the number of potential family caregivers aged 45-64 for each person 80 and older. This legislation not only brings awareness to family caregiving issues, but will hopefully begin addressing the struggles that millions of family caregivers in our country face due to lack of support.
If you’d like to read about the RAISE Family Caregivers Act farther, Forbes has published a two-part series which focuses on the legislation’s specifics, and real life stories of the struggles of American caregivers.
*Update: The Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) released a fact sheet that contains information about the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and data specific to Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers.