cmk 1154 e Caregivers finally get support with new government strategy

Senator Elizabeth Dole, founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, speaks at the 2nd Annual National Convening: The Military Caregiver Journey event Nov. 13, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Caitlin M. Kenney)

By Caitlin M. Kenney

Family caregivers can soon expect a bigger government on focus on the best ways to provide resources to support them and their families.

The bi-partisan RAISE Family Caregivers Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and make public a national Family Caregiver Strategy in coordination with Congress as well as federal and state government agencies.

It was passed by the Senate Jan. 8 and is currently waiting to be signed by the president.

Support for caregivers has been “disjointed, unorganized, not centralized, and spread all throughout a number of different agencies that don’t really work together, at least all the time,” said Steve Schwab, executive director of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which advocates on behalf of the 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers.

This new strategy will identify recommendations that the agencies, organizations, and individuals who work with caregivers –such as healthcare providers—can do to address the needs of caregivers.

“We believe this is a national crisis,” said Schwab about support for caregivers. “RAND’s research called it a national crisis. And so we believe and the government now agrees, that that crisis merits an organized, national response.”

“So I don’t see this unlike any other public health crisis or emergency that gets the federal government to align its services,” he said. “And we think it’s about time that that’s done for the 40 million plus family caregivers who are out there.”

Some of the recommended actions listed in the bill include involving them in the care teams, respite care options, education and training support, financial security issues and how to deliver services efficiently.

“We know all the data that RAND did on military and veteran caregivers said that the number one way to improve the health and recovery of our veterans is a strong, well supported caregiver. And that rings true for caregivers in general,” Schwab said.

The legislation also establishs a Family Caregiving Advisory Council to “advise and provide recommendations, including best practices, to the Secretary on recognizing and supporting family caregivers,” the bill reads.

Members appointed to the council will include caregivers, employers, health care providers and individuals with disabilities. The Secretary of the VA (or his designee) is also listed as a member.

The Elizabeth Dole foundation worked with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who introduced the bi-partisan supported bill earlier this year, and “who’ve been the main champions on this bill from the very beginning,” said Schwab.

“I would just commend the bi-partisan leaders who came together around it. Caregiving is not a partisan issue,” he said.

This story was updated Jan. 9 to reflect the bill’s passage in the Senate.

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney | Caitlin@ConnectingVets.com

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