The proposed Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act would require the development of an integrated national strategy to provide resources for under-served family caregivers in the United States. If you are not currently a caregiver for a loved one, you most likely will be, and no doubt you know of someone who is already an unpaid caregiver (as opposed to a hired caregiver) for a person in their family.
Many families, even those with young children, find themselves thrust into the role of caring for a loved one when they least expect it and can ill afford to. Caregiving for a child or an adult with disabilities, or caring for an adult with a debilitating illness, has become the norm for many in the United States and abroad.
These caregivers “prepare meals, handle finances, manage medications, drive to doctors’ appointments, help with bathing and dressing, perform complex medical tasks and more – all so loved ones can live at home.”
Keep in mind, the above tasks are those they were already performing for their own household, tasks that multiplied exponentially with the increased needs of their disabled or ill family member. Add a job outside of the home to all of that, and you have to wonder how these overworked and over-stressed heroes manage at all!
The RAISE Family Caregivers Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop, maintain, and update an integrated national strategy to recognize and support family caregivers.
In civilized countries, one would assume that such support already exists, but that is not the case, at least not to the degree that it is needed. Let’s face it, even if we only consider the effect that Alzheimer’s disease has on households, these staggering figures point to the urgency for increased support:
- In 2015, 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s;
- The annual number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementia is projected to double by 2050;
- In my state, Washington, 100,000 people currently have Alzheimer’s and by 2025, that number will jump to 140,000 (a 40% rise in just a 10 year period of time);
- More than 15 million Americans provide care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia; and
- In 2014, Americans provided 18 billion hours of unpaid care to family members with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. – all facts provided by the Alzheimer’s Association 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.
As stated in the AARP article attached at the beginning of this post, “These family caregivers have a big job, but some basic support – and commonsense solutions – can help make their big responsibilities a little bit easier.” I would assert that basic support isn’t enough, but the RAISE act is a great starting point towards assuring that employers, federal and state agencies, and providers of health care and long-term services (LTSS) do their part in both recognizing, and addressing, the plight of family caregivers.
I encourage all of us to contact our state’s members of Congress to encourage their support and implementation of Senate Bill 1719/House Bill 3099.
All color illustrations in this article provided by: Gerd Altmann