As a caregiver who spent decades helping my Mom and Pop to live independently in their home, I understand what the compelling new report on military caregivers, released today, makes abundantly clear: Family caregivers who help our veterans need support - much like those of us who undertake the labor of love to assist our aging parents and other loved ones.
While each caregiver's experience is unique - whether we're helping older adults, younger disabled Americans, our veterans - together, we really do make up a silent army of caregivers.
Family caregiving has become the new normal. Either we are now a caregiver, have been one or will become one. And this silent army needs support to safely and successfully fulfill our mission.
That's why AARP this year launched a multistate caregiving advocacy campaign. With more than 40 states engaged, we're fighting for family caregivers - and the seniors and other loved ones they help to live independently at home.
In fact, through our multistate campaign, AARP is working right now to advance some of the key recommendations included in today's report. For example:
- AARP agrees that family caregivers must be involved in every step of the health care process. That's why we created the Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act, which will help family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital - and as they return home. This act has been introduced by state legislators in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Oklahoma.
- We're also working in states to create assessments of the services that are in place to support all family caregivers - including military families - and how to improve them. Most recently, task forces have been created in Mississippi and New Mexico to start this process.
- We are fighting for increased workplace protections to help family caregivers against discrimination and for paid and unpaid leave - as well as access to much-needed respite care. After all, family caregivers who are on call 24/7, and also working full time, have earned a well-deserved break.
Follow me on Twitter @RoamTheDomes for more on this important issue. You can also stay up to date on our multistate caregiving campaign in the states by signing up for the AARP Advocates newsletter or by visiting your state web page.
Update 3/27/15: The CARE Act is now law in Oklahoma, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia.