The Clock is Ticking to Implement a New Law Helping America’s Caregiving Families

AARP led a group of 75 organizations yesterday, calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to implement the bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act. In a letter, the organizations write, “Millions of individuals count on family caregivers every day. Family caregivers are counting on implementation of this commonsense law.”

The RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming support and was signed into law by President Trump on January 22, requires the Secretary of HHS to develop a strategy to support family caregivers within 18 months of the law’s enactment – the clock started ticking five months ago.

According to the new law, the Secretary must:

  • Establish an advisory council of representatives from both the private and public sectors to advise and make recommendations for the strategy.
  • Identify as part of the strategy recommended actions that communities, providers, government, and others are taking and may take to make it easier to coordinate care for a loved one, get information, referrals and resources, and improve respite options so family caregivers can reset and recharge, among other areas.

Every day, more than 40 million Americans help aging parents, spouses, and other relatives and friends manage chronic conditions and disabilities so their loved ones can live independently in their homes and communities for as long as possible. About 3.7 million family caregivers provide care to a child under age 18 who have medical, behavioral, or other condition or disability, and 6.5 million family caregivers assist both adults and children They manage medications, help with bathing and dressing, prepare and feed meals, arrange transportation to medical appointments (or do the driving themselves), handle financial and legal matters and much, much more. Many do all of this while working full time and raising families.

Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system in this country. The unpaid care family caregivers provide — a staggering 37 billion hours valued at about $470 billion annually — helps delay or prevent more costly care and unnecessary hospitalizations, saving taxpayer dollars.

Once implemented, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act will:

  • Help improve the collection and sharing of information, including information related to evidence-based or promising practices and innovative models regarding family caregiving.
  • Better coordinate, assess, maximize the effectiveness, and avoid unnecessary duplication of existing federal government activities to recognize and support family caregivers.
  • Inform state and local efforts to support family caregivers.

Jennifer, who cares for her elderly mother with dementia, Yoko, demonstrates the importance of this new law and its enactment. “Taking care of Mom is a full-time job, including getting up several times a night to help her walk to the bathroom. This has been a challenge since I no longer get a full night’s rest. During the day, I’m responsible for broad duties such as her finances and healthcare decisions, as well as everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, and medication management.”

Family caregivers, like Jennifer, take on huge responsibilities every day, and the RAISE Family Caregivers Act is one way to help make their lives a little bit easier.

On behalf of America’s more than 40 million family caregivers—and the loved ones who count on them—AARP urges Secretary Alex Azar to promptly implement the RAISE Family Caregivers Act. Family caregivers need support today.

Nancy LeaMond is AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer. She leads the organization’s Communities, State and National Group, including government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.