M E D I A A D V I S O R Y
FCA STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF NATIONAL
CAREGIVER LEGISLATION & POLICIES
November is National Caregivers Month.
The time for Congress to act is now.
SAN FRANCISCO—Before Congress adjourns for the year, the National Center on caregiving at Family Caregiver Alliance urges members to pass key pieces of legislation to assist families who are caring for a loved one with a chronic, disabling health condition. Congress has spent the year debating major changes to Medicare and Medicaid, while virtually ignoring crucial programs that could reduce some of the long-term fiscal pressures on these programs.
According to Kathleen Kelly, Executive Director of Family Caregiver Alliance, federal support of family caregivers is sound fiscal policy. "Our care system comes at enormous physical, emotional and financial sacrifice to family caregivers," Kelly says "It is imperative that caregivers be supported with practical, cost-saving home and community-based services."
Programs like the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), passed in 2000, have enjoyed broad, bipartisan support. Lawmakers, themselves often providing care for their aging parents, have recognized the importance of making a federal commitment to support and strengthen caregiving families.
But Congress can and should do more. Family Caregiver Alliance encourages Congress to:
Increase funding for the NFCSP. House and Senate negotiators are still debating final FY 2004 funding for the NFCSP. The House approved $168.5 million, while the Senate would provide only level funding - $155.2 million. We strongly urge Senate conferees to adopt the House position under the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill. Even this modest level of funding provides key resources for families throughout the country, enabling them to keep loved ones at home and in the community.
Enact legislation providing support to family and informal caregivers, including:
Lifespan respite (S. 538/H.R. 1083) to develop respite programs at the state and national levels; provide emergency respite; and train and recruit respite workers. Respite programs offer temporary relief from the strain that caregivers experience day in and day out, and in some cases have been shown to delay institutionalization.
Tax credits for caregivers (S. 1214, S. 100). Congressional proposals include credits that range from $3,000 - $5,000, which would help compensate for the thousands of dollars in lost wages and other expenses that family and informal caregivers incur.
Social Security "credits" (H.R. 473) to help account for forgone Social Security contributions missed when workers must take time out of the workforce to provide care.
Expand the Family and Leave Medical Leave Act (S. 304) by providing incentives to states for the development of paid family leave policies. These policies would assist employees who need to take time off to care for a loved one but could not afford to do so without some level of wage replacement.
Why is federal investment in caregiver support so vital? Services like caregiver education, counseling and respite contribute to a family's ability to provide long-term assistance to a loved one. In turn, this can delay nursing home placement and reduce the reliance on programs like Medicaid. In fact, support services for caregivers have been shown to deter institutionalization of persons with moderate dementia by nearly a year. With the annual cost of nursing home care for an individual averaging $56,000, any delay means real savings to families, to government programs and to businesses. Consider:
If services provided by informal caregivers had to be replaced with paid services, it would cost an estimated $257 billion (in 2000 dollars).
Lost productivity due to informal caregiving costs businesses $11.4 billion annually.
Informal caregivers personally lose about $659,139 over a lifetime: $25,494 in Social Security benefits; $67,202 in pension benefits; and $566,433 in forgone wages.
Who are the caregivers? Most Americans have provided care to an ill or disabled loved one or know someone who has. In fact, nearly one out of every four households is involved in caregiving for a person aged 50 or over. Caregivers span every age, gender, culture, religion and ethnicity.
What is the burden of long-term care? Studies measuring the impact of caregiving on daily life have revealed that:
31% of caregivers report a decrease in family savings due to caregiving responsibilities.
Two-thirds of family caregivers report conflicts between caregiving and employment, resulting in reduced work hours or unpaid leave.
Middle-aged and older women who care for an ill or disabled spouse are almost six times as likely to suffer depressive or anxious symptoms than non-caregivers.
70% of people with Alzheimer's disease live at home, where families provide at least 75% of their care.
Why is this a compelling human need? Though economic constraints challenge both state and federal policymakers to prioritize spending, providing support for family caregivers through publicly-funded programs is more than simply the right thing to do.
For more information on current state and national legislation, see Family Caregiver Alliance's Caregiving PolicyDigest, at: caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=979.
Family Caregiver Alliance, founded in 1977, operates programs at the national, state and local levels to sustain and support the important work of families providing care to loved ones affected by chronic, disabling health conditions. Offering information, education, policy analysis, consultation and research, Family Caregiver Alliance's National Center on Caregiving works to advance the development of caregiver support policies and programs in every state in the country. For more information, visit www.caregiver.org call FCA at (800) 445-8106, or email email@example.com
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