In an election year filled with partisanship and political fights, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel that their voices aren’t being heard or that the issues that affect their lives aren’t being addressed. But, many outstanding elected officials work hard every day to make a positive difference for their constituents. That’s why AARP recognizes state legislators, governors, and other elected officials – from both sides of the aisle – who have stepped up and worked together to write, support, and advance common-sense policies that help older Americans remain in their homes and communities and retire with confidence. AARP is proud to announce our fifth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers, who fought this year to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones, along with our fourth annual bipartisan class of Super Savers, who championed policies that enhance retirement security.
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 RAISE Family Caregivers Act HHS Implementation Group Letter June 2018 Final , 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:
Prometemos 'en la salud y en la enfermedad' y 'en la riqueza y en la pobreza' esperando nunca enfrentarnos a enfermedades o dificultades financieras. Cuando ocurre una tragedia, a menudo los cónyuges tienen que batallar con ambas cosas; afrontar las responsabilidades de cuidar de su esposo o esposa y velar por su salud y recuperación. Yvette y Walter, de Carolina del Norte, luchan con esto. Tras el derrame cerebral de Walt hace dos años, Yvette, "como cuidadora y esposa ha aprendido a hacerse cargo de... organizar citas médicas, la jardinería, reparaciones y finanzas", mientras continúa trabajando a tiempo completo. Lamentablemente, esta es la realidad de muchos cuidadores familiares. "Lo más difícil ha sido nuestra pérdida financiera... yo gasto más de $1,000 de mi cheque de sueldo al mes para cubrir lo que no cubren los beneficios jubilatorios de Walt y sus cheques del Seguro Social por discapacidad". Durante este Día de San Valentín, recordamos la increíble labor de amor que los cuidadores familiares proveen cada día para sus cónyuges, padres, hermanos y otros. Las historias como la de Yvette y Walt demuestran la necesidad de un crédito tributario para los cuidadores, para brindar apoyo a las familias que luchan contra las dificultades financieras que genera el cuido de un ser querido en el hogar. En el 2016, el cuidador familiar promedio pagó casi $7,000 en gastos de bolsillo; y lo hacen para ayudar a sus seres queridos a permanecer en sus hogares y comunidades, donde prefieren estar. Sin embargo, sabemos que los costos de bolsillo varían. Según un informe de AARP del 2016:
We vow ‘in sickness and in health,’ and ‘for richer or poorer,’ hoping to never experience illnesses or financial difficulties. When tragedy strikes, spouses are often left battling both; taking on the huge responsibilities of caring for their husbands or wives’ needs, and managing their health and recovery. Yvette and Walter from North Carolina live this struggle. After Walt’s stroke 2 years ago, Yvette has, “as caregiver and wife learned to manage…medical appointments, lawn care, repairs and finances," all while continuing to work full time. Sadly, this is reality for so many family caregivers. “The hardest thing has been the financial loss out of our household…I use over $1,000 from my paycheck monthly to cover what Walt's retirement and social security disability checks do not cover.” This Valentine’s Day, we are reminded of the incredible labor of love that family caregivers across the country provide for their spouses, parents, siblings, and others every day. Stories, like Yvette and Walt’s, demonstrate the need for a caregiver tax credit to support families struggling with the financial challenges of at-home caregiving. In 2016, the average family caregiver spent almost $7,000 on out of pocket costs – all to help their loved ones remain at home and in their communities – where they want to be. However, we know that out of pocket costs vary. According to a 2016 AARP report:
In workplaces and at kitchen tables across the country, Americans are grappling with a growing issue that touches so many of us: the enormous struggles we face when caring for relatives and friends who need ongoing help because of a chronic illness, disability, or a serious health condition.
In addition to advocating for older Americans in the halls of Congress, AARP staff and volunteers are working on the ground in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to make a difference in people’s lives through advocacy. This year, we have helped enact state policies to support more than 30 million family caregivers and provide thousands of workers with a new way to save for retirement.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s also remember that November is National Family Caregivers Month – a time to recognize and express our appreciation for America’s 40 million family caregivers. They are truly the backbone our care system, helping aging parents, spouses, and other relatives and friends manage chronic conditions and disabilities.
With more than 60 percent of America’s 40 million family caregivers balancing their caregiving responsibilities with paid employment, there is a pressing need for employers to do more to support employees who are also caring for loved ones. In fact, according to a survey AARP conducted with the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an overwhelming majority of the company benefit managers – 82% – say that family caregiving will become an increasingly important issue for their companies over the next five years. That is why AARP is partnering with NEGBH to help employers assess their company culture and develop strategies and policies to create a caregiver-friendly workplace.
Many of you, like me, know that family caregiving for someone you love can be a source of deep satisfaction and meaning. But caring for a person with dementia, known as dementia caregivers, can exact an especially high emotional, physical and financial toll on family members themselves.
This week, the U.S. Senate began its consideration of the RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage) Family Caregivers Act — an important piece of legislation that would start a national conversation about ways to aid Americans’ greatest support system — family caregivers. Thanks to the leadership and support of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the bill was quickly approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (which goes by the very appropriate acronym . . . HELP).
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