Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be incredibly rewarding, but it is also hard, confusing, frustrating, and expensive. Family caregivers face many challenges and often aren’t sure how to ask for help or find resources. This January, the United States government took a big step to recognize the sacrifice of family caregivers and to set in motion a national strategy to provide resources and assistance to caregivers.
The Caregiver Dilemma
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15 million Americans provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia in 2016. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a lot of work. It can be physically demanding as well as emotionally draining. It’s no surprise that caregivers often struggle to find a balance between providing care for their loved one and taking care of themselves. The Alzheimer’s Association found that 35% of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia report that their health has gotten worse due to care responsibilities!
It is clear that caregivers need support so that they can care for themselves and their loved one. Fortunately, the government has heard the demands and has signed the RAISE Act into law.
The RAISE Act
In coordination with the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), several politicians in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives crafted the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act. The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Representatives Gregg Harper (R-Mississippi) and Kathy Castor (D-Florida) directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a national strategy to help family caregivers. This strategy is designed to offer caregivers education and training as well as long-term services and financial stability.
On January 22, 2018, the president signed the RAISE Act into law.
It is still too early to know what the HHS’s national strategy will entail and what kind of support family caregivers can expect, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. In a press release put out by the Alzheimer’s Association, Robert Egge, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Chief Public Policy Officer and AIM Executive Director said, “The development of a national strategy will have an immense impact on family caregivers. Enhancing assistance for family caregivers will result in improved caregiver health and well-being and will result in a higher quality of care for their loved ones.”
The passage of the RAISE Act underscores how powerful family caregivers can be in advocating for themselves and their loved ones. Together, those with Alzheimer’s and the family members who care for them add up to more than 20 million Americans. That is a big tribe with a big voice! If you want to see your local, state, and federal government offer more services and support for caregivers and to fight harder to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia, consider becoming an Alzheimer’s advocate!
We will keep an eye on the new national strategy and provide information on any new services or support that becomes available. In the meantime, if you need some emotional support right now, please join us for our free monthly caregiver support group. The group is open to all and is a positive, empowering experience for those shouldering the responsibilities of being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
(Read the Alzheimer’s Association’s RAISE press release.)
Categories: Memory Care