Thomas Riley, Seniorlink CEO, was published today in WBUR.org writing about the recent nation-wide recognition of family caregivers due to the passing of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act. Riley, who was appointed by Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker to serve on the Council on Aging last year, explains the importance of family caregivers and why they should no longer be overlooked.
“This nation includes over 40 million people — most of them family members — who provide care to loved ones that is valued at half a trillion dollars each year, nearly on par with what the federal government spends on Medicare or Medicaid.
The informal, non-professional care we give accounts for as much as 80 percent of the total value of “long-term services and supports” for older adults, a category that includes assistance with routine daily activities. Two-thirds of older adults with disabilities who receive long-term support at home get their care exclusively from a family member.
One would think that numbers like these would mean that the “caregiver nation” is well understood and valued. But no, most family caregivers toil in uncompensated, unrecognized silence, often victims of the isolation the comes with caring for a loved one with complex chronic disease.
Thankfully, people are starting to notice the caregiver nation. It recently gained major validation from the U.S. government: The RAISE Family Caregivers Act was signed into law by President Trump in January. The act calls for “bringing together public and private sectors to recommend actions that communities, government, providers and others can take to make it easier for caregivers to coordinate care and receive information, referrals and resources.”
The U.S. secretary of health and human services now has 18 months to develop a strategy to comply with the act. This encouraging progress comes after dozens of state legislatures, including in Massachusetts, have passed versions of a companion piece of legislation, the CARE Act, which requires hospitals to include family caregivers in discharge planning.
Legislative recognition is welcome, but it is only an initial step. Health care providers will play a key role as well. Recently, as certain providers and health plans have begun to shift from a fee-for-service to a value-based care model, we have begun to see more acknowledgment of family caregivers and their role in the health of patients.”
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