Forty million Americans, without guidance or technical support, care for parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities so that they can live independently in their homes or communities, instead of being warehoused in nursing or assisted living homes. They prepare meals, manage medications, help with bathing and dressing, arrange transportation to medical appointments, handle financial and legal matters; but they have little or no expert technical assistance. For these tasks, they spend an estimated 37 billion hours annually—delaying or preventing more costly care and unnecessary hospitalizations, often at the taxpayers’ expense.
In this holiday season, it is refreshing to view the recently passed S.1028, RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include Support and Engage) Family Caregivers Act, reintroduced by Sens. Collins (R. Maine) and Baldwin (D.Wisc.) . (It was lost in cyberspace in 2015, after passing the Senate). This legislation calls for the secretary of Health and Human Services to work with an advisory council comprised of 15 voting non-federal employees who are family caregivers, individuals with disabilities, health care, social service and other long-term services and supports providers, plus non-voting federal members from various interested governmental agencies. With their aid, the secretary shall identify and recommend actions that federal, state and local governments, health care providers, and others can or should take to promote better person- and family-centered care in all health and long term services; assess and service planning involving family caregivers and care recipients; develop and publish relevant information, education and training supports; implement financial security and deal with workplace issues; and deliver recommended services. Within 18 months the advisory council and secretary must deliver a report inventorying and assessing all federally funded efforts to support family caregivers, and their effectiveness; recommend measures to improve and coordinate these programs; effectively deliver services to family caregivers; and evaluate how family caregiving impacts Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Finally one piece of legislation with bipartisan support. There is no reason why this “do-good” statute should die again. The House should promptly adopt it and pass it on to the president.