NAHC Supports the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act
May 19, 2017 03:08 PM
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) wrote a letter with allied organizations to members of Congress asking them support the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that provides respite services to caregivers.
The Lifespan Respite Care Act, sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate and Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Gregg Harper (R-MS), would reauthorize the program for a mere $15 million a year for the next five years.
Every day, millions of American families are faced with unexpected illness, disease, or disability. A soldier is injured in war, a spouse develops multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease, or a child is diagnosed with a developmental or physical disability or chronic illness. These are but a few examples of events that can forever change an individual’s and family’s trajectory.
While each situation is unique, the one thing that they often have in common is the incredible value of family caregivers. Forty-three million family caregivers provide a vast majority of our nation’s long-term care, permitting individuals of all ages to remain in their communities and avoid or delay nursing home or foster care placements. AARP has estimated that family caregivers provide $470 billion in uncompensated care annually to adults, a staggering statistic that exceeds 2013 federal and state spending on Medicaid health services and long-term services and supports.
While the benefits of family caregiving are plentiful, caregiving can take its toll — with older spousal family caregivers experiencing higher mortality rates, rates of acute and chronic conditions, and depression than non-caregivers. Respite—short-term care that offers individuals or family members temporary relief from the daily routine and stress of providing care—is a critical component to bolstering family stability and maintaining family caregiver health and well-being. Respite is a frequently requested support service among family caregivers, but 85% of family caregivers receive no respite. Not surprisingly, high burden family caregivers (defined as those who assist their loved one with personal care such as getting dressed or bathing) cite lack of respite as one of their top three concerns.
To help provide family caregivers the support they need, the Lifespan Respite Care Program was enacted in 2006 with strong bipartisan support. The program provides competitive grants to states to establish or enhance statewide Lifespan Respite systems that maximize existing resources and help ensure that quality respite is available and accessible to all family caregivers. With more than half of care recipients under age 75 and more than one-third under age 50, Lifespan Respite rightly recognizes caregiving as a lifespan issue and serves families regardless of age or disability.
Though the program has been drastically underfunded since its inception, thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have received grants and are engaged in impressive work such as identifying and coordinating respite services available through various state agencies, including veterans caregiver services; helping unserved families pay for respite through participant-directed voucher programs or mini-grants to community-based agencies; building respite capacity by recruiting and training respite workers and volunteers; and raising awareness about respite through public education campaigns. Originally authorized through Fiscal Year 2011, enactment of the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act is necessary to continue this excellent momentum, better coordinate and supply respite care to our nation’s 43 million family caregivers through statewide Lifespan Respite programs, and ensure that states are able to sustain the great work they have begun and still allow new states to receive a grant.
NAHC thanks Senators Collins and Baldwin and Representatives Harper and Langevin for their sponsorship of this legislation and we urge all their colleagues to join them in support of legislation that commits our nation to support of seniors, the disabled and the loved ones who care for them.
Stay tuned to NAHC Report for updates on this legislation.