State Legislator Stands Up for Family Caregivers While Battling Cancer

debbie
Sen. Debbie Smith and Barry Gold of AARP Nevada

Let me start by saying, thank you State Sen. Debbie Smith (Nev.) for your leadership, courage and determination to fight for family caregivers and the older parents, spouses and other loved ones they help to remain in their homes.

When Sen. Smith first talked to AARP about the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, she cared for her mom. By the time the bill passed the state legislature, Sen. Smith needed a caregiver herself, as she battled cancer.

The CARE Act helps family caregivers when their loved one goes into the hospital and as they transition home. One of the 40 million Americans helping a loved one to remain at home, Sen. Smith knew firsthand how this legislation could help. But when she was hospitalized with a brain tumor, she quickly realized just how much the CARE Act meant to her personally and the tangible difference it could make for patients — and family caregivers.

Due to this serious illness, Sen. Smith had to miss several weeks of Nevada’s legislative session — including the committee markup for the CARE Act. But this didn’t stop her from writing to her colleagues to endorse the bill. It was approved unanimously and signed into law on April 10. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Last week at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual summit, I was proud to be there when Barry Gold of AARP Nevada recognized Sen. Smith as an AARP Capitol Caregiver for her hard work and dedication to supporting family caregivers. In her remarks following the award presentation, Smith thanked her own family caregivers: “This award means the world to me, but this award should go to my family who has taken care of me all these months.”

Smith’s story shows how family caregiving is an issue that can affect us all. If you’re not a caregiver now, you were one in the past, you’ll likely be one in the future — or you’ll need care yourself. The unpaid care that family caregivers provide — helping their loved ones with bathing and dressing, meals, transportation, and more complex medical tasks like injections and wound care — is valued at an estimated $470 billion annually, according to a new AARP report, “ Valuing the Invaluable.” To put this number in perspective, it’s more than the annual total Medicaid spending ($449 billion), or the sales ($469 billion) of the four largest U.S. tech companies, Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft, combined!

That’s why AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to make big responsibilities a little bit easier for family caregivers. In the 2015 legislative session — with help from caregivers like Sen. Smith — we’ve been fighting for the CARE Act as well as:

  • Employee leave so family caregivers don’t have to worry about losing their pay — or losing their jobs — when they have to take time off work to bring their older loved one to a doctor’s appointment
  • Respite care that allows family caregivers to take a hard-earned break
  • Allowing nurses to have the full authority to heal
  • Helping family caregivers navigate financial challenges by making sure power of attorney and adult guardianship laws are consistent and honored from state to state
  • Making sure caregivers have access to the right resources in the community, like home care and adult day care

Follow me on Twitter @RoamTheDomes for more on family caregiving across the states. To stay up to date on our advocacy in the states, sign up for the AARP Advocates e-newsletter or visit your state Web page.


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

 

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
December 11, 2018 10:07 AM
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.
December 05, 2018 01:06 PM
Caroline is a mother of two children and a preschool teacher who unexpectedly became a family caregiver for her father after he suffered a major stroke. Her father, Tom, now deceased, lost the use of his right side and his ability to speak. Multiple surgeries and rehabilitation treatments later, he was able to live at home with the help of nurses. But it was up to Caroline to provide daily care, such as overseeing appointments and handling certain nursing responsibilities, like managing his medications. “I became the person my father could rely on more than anyone in the world,” Caroline said. “I became his safe place and his best friend.” In communities across the country, family caregivers like Caroline are caring for older parents, spouses and other loved ones, helping them to remain at home – where they want to be. Their tasks are done out of love and commitment, but are not easy. That’s why AARP is fighting for family caregivers and their loved ones in every state. In 2018, AARP advanced new policies to provide more help at home, flexibility at work, training, relief and more, which will benefit over 30 million family caregivers. Here are a couple highlights:
November 27, 2018 08:55 AM
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the vital role that transportation options play in what we at AARP call “livable communities” – great places to live for people of all ages. Being able to get around is critical to earn a living, raise a family, contribute and stay connected to your community and enjoy life. And, having alternatives to getting behind the wheel of your own car is particularly important for older adults who want to stay in their homes and communities as they age.