During the last week of September, both the House and Senate passed legislation (H.R. 6197) reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, which includes the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). This reauthorization legislation includes provisions to expand the universe of family caregivers eligible for support services by: (1) decreasing the age of a qualified grandparent or relative caregiver caring for a child from 60 years to 55 years old; and (2) including adopted children in the list of individuals to whom a grandparent may provide care. The legislation also gives priority for NFCSP services to family caregivers who provide care for older individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders and to grandparents or older relative caregivers who provide care for children with severe disabilities. In addition, the legislation encourages the use of volunteers to deliver services under the NFCSP; promotes consumer choice in the decision between home- and community-based care and institutionalized care; facilitates greater coordination between federal, state, and local agencies that serve seniors; and authorizes funding for various programs.
As we go to press, the Lifespan Respite Care Act will be voted upon in the House and Senate. If enacted, the bill will award grants or cooperative agreements to an agency, organization, or political subdivision to: (1) develop lifespan respite care at the state and local level; (2) provide respite care services for family caregivers caring for children or adults; (3) train and recruit respite care workers and volunteers; (4) provide information to caregivers about available respite or support services; and (5) assist caregivers in gaining access to such services.
At the state level, Hawaii has passed legislation (S.B. 3253) to create a joint committee on family caregiving to report policy recommendations to the legislature. The committee will research and recommend comprehensive public policies to strengthen support services such as training, education, respite, and financial incentives for family caregivers providing care for older adults.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney signed into law a bill establishing a Special Commission on Long-Term Care for Persons with Adult Onset Disabilities (S.B. 2582). This new commission is charged with investigating the long-term care options for adults between the ages of 19 and 59 years old who are neurologically or physically disabled, including those with Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, or multiple sclerosis, and who are currently underserved. The commission is to report on the adequacy of various services for this population, including residential nursing homes, community-based housing and support models, and personal care attendants. It is also required to report on the respite care needs for those disabled adults who continue to be cared for by family members of friends in the community.
Finally, the California Assembly Committee on Aging and Long Term Care issued an Aging Agenda that included recommendations related to family caregivers. Building an Aging Agenda for the 21st Century recommends (1) expanding California’s paid family leave law by increasing awareness, broadening the definition of family to accommodate all family caregivers, and providing accommodation for chronic care in addition to episodic care; (2) increasing caregiver supports by developing and expanding information tools and fully funding caregiver resources and service programs; and (3) addressing caregiver diversity by ensuring support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender caregivers, grandparents caring for grandchildren, and those caring for people with Alzheimer’s Disease.
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