Information and resources that support your role in caring for a loved one.

Caregiving, and the physical, emotional and financial strain it can put upon the millions of family caregivers across the country, isn’t an issue that gets a lot of attention from the nation’s lawmakers or the media that cover them.

But a new survey released this week by AARP gives evidence that the vast majority of registered voters would like to see that change.

The 2015 AARP National Caregiving Survey of Registered Voters Age 40 and Older found that 77 percent of Americans who are 40 and older and registered to vote believe that “Congress making it a priority to improve resources available to family caregivers” was “extremely/very important.” Another 11 percent feel that it is “somewhat important.” Just nine percent viewed it as “not very/not at all important” and four percent were not sure or declined to answer.

Similar numbers promised to reward lawmakers for improving aid to caregivers, with 68 percent rating the “favorability of Congressional members who want to improve resources for family caregivers” as “extremely/very favorable” and another 18 percent rating it “somewhat favorable.”

That support is even bipartisan. At a time when the country’s two major parties can agree on little, 90 percent of Democrats polled felt improving resources for caregivers should be a priority, as did 70 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of independents. Strong majorities across party lines also favored members of congress who wanted to improve resources for caregivers, with Democrats at 86 percent, Republicans at 59 percent and independents at 66 percent.

While the public may show signs of favoring policies designed to improve support for family caregivers, the actual policies in place have seen serious spending cuts to programs for older adults and family caregivers.

A report released this week from the PEW Charitable Trusts highlights the struggles such programs are facing on the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Older Americans Act, which PEW characterized as “the major vehicle for delivering social and nutrition services to people over 60.”

While the elder population in the United States has risen dramatically, funding has gone in the opposite direction. PEW reported that the population of adults 65 and over has increased by 60 percent since 1980, allocations for programs covered by the Older Americans Act have dropped 34 percent when adjusted for inflation. Funding in the 2015 fiscal year was $1.9 billion, down from $2.1 billion in 2010, and funding of the Older Americans Act hasn’t been fully reauthorized since its 2011 expiration.

As a result, PEW reported that Area Agencies on Aging “are seeing their waiting lists grow” and “are scrimping on home services, delivering fewer meals, providing fewer places for group meals, and offering fewer social and recreational programs.”

While many states are unable to make up for the insufficient federal funding, Massachusetts appears to be in decent shape. New governor Charlie Baker released his first budget on Wednesday. The House and Senate still have to review Baker’s plan and come to a compromise agreement on the final budget, but Baker’s initial version projects to fully fund enhanced home care and home care basic units for fiscal 2016, with no home care wait list anticipated.

Maintaining funding may not be enough for many family caregivers. The AARP survey noted that 64 percent of respondents who are or were caregivers “felt emotionally stressed,” 59 percent “found it difficult to take a break” and 58 percent “felt stressed in trying to balance your job and family.”

When asked what services or resources would be most helpful, the family caregivers polled responded overwhelmingly in favor of “information about caregiver resources.” That was viewed as “very/somewhat helpful” by 88 percent of respondents, followed by “respite care” at 85 percent, “assistance with chores” at 78 percent, “assistance with transportation to medical appointments” at 78 percent, “assistance with general transportation” at 77 percent, “assistance with meals” at 74 percent, ‘assistance with managing medications” at 72 percent, “connecting with other caregivers” at 72 percent and “time off from work for caregiving tasks” at 70 percent.

The need for improved access to information about caregiver resources was the driving force behind the creation of CaregivingMetroWest.org, and will we continue to strive to fill as much of that void as possible.

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