Members of Congress announced Tuesday the formation of the Assisting Caregivers Today caucus, a bipartisan coalition that aims to bring more attention to the plight of family caregivers.
With the support of AARP and more than 20 other national organizations, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) had an afternoon news conference to announce their efforts to provide more help for people to live independently as well as to educate and engage Congress on these issues.
“We hope to bring attention to what caregivers are going through,” Ayotte said. “We’re all in this together.”
Lujan Grisham, a former director of New Mexico’s Agency on Aging and today a family caregiver for her mother, said, “I ran for Congress because I wanted to be in a position with my colleagues to not just raise national awareness…but to help family caregivers.”
A newly released AARP caregiving survey of registered voters age 40 and older found that people — regardless of political party — are looking to Congress for help in providing more access to services and resources that people need to continue living independently and that provide caregivers with respite care.
“Caregiving issues affect people across the lifespan,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “While anyone at any age can need the assistance of a family caregiver — and even young people can be called upon to provide care — people 50-plus represent the largest segment of those needing and almost half of those providing care.”
More than 42 million family caregivers each year provide care for aging parents, spouses, friends and other loved ones. They supply services that range from helping with personal hygiene and meal preparation to managing finances and medication regimens — an equivalent of $450 billion annually in unpaid care.
Black, who worked 40 years as a nurse, said caregiving is “a consuming job and responsibility.” Lending credence to that at the news conference, family caregivers Tobey Partch-Davies of New Hampshire, Don Schierling of Colorado, Chris Courington of Tennessee and Marianita Gorman of New Mexico — all members of the AARP I Heart Caregivers online community — shared compelling stories about personal sacrifices and the challenges of balancing work, family and caring for loved ones.
“They are the unsung — and unseen — heroes in our society,” Bennet said.
Photos: T.J. Kirkpatrick for AARP
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