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

While it may seem like nothing ever gets done in Washington these days amid the scandals, shutdowns and partisan bickering, there was some good news for the nation’s family caregivers this week.

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act was signed into law. This new law directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create an advisory council charged with making recommendations on the strategy to support family caregivers. The blueprint, which must be developed within 18 months, would address financial and workplace issues, respite care and other ways to support caregivers.

The law was supported by many advocacy groups supporting caregivers, including AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association. An estimated 40 million Americans care for a loved one, with family caregivers providing about 37 billion hours of unpaid help for their loved ones each year by managing a loved one’s medications and other health needs, preparing meals and doing housework. Many provide this care while working full time and raising their own families, with about 32 percent of family caregivers providing at least 21 hours of care a week.

AARP provided the bill’s sponsors – Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Representatives Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) – with draft legislation and worked closely with lawmakers to get the measure passed in an effort to help the nation’s family caregivers.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system in America,” said Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer, in a press release this week. “We need to make it easier for them to coordinate care for their loved ones, get information and resources and take a break so they can rest and recharge. … The RAISE Family Caregivers Act will help address the challenges family caregivers face. ”

The Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), the Association’s advocacy arm, also celebrated the passage of the RAISE Act.

“On behalf of the more than 15 million Americans who provide unpaid care for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, we want to thank Sens. Collins and Baldwin, and Reps. Harper and Castor for their bipartisan support for family caregivers,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Public Policy Officer and AIM Executive Director, in a press release. “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 Alzheimer’s Association press release also noted that for the millions of Americans caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias the emotional, physical and financial costs can be overwhelming. Caregivers of people with dementia report higher levels of stress, depression and worse health outcomes than those providing care to individuals without dementia.

As a result, Alzheimer’s caregivers incurred $10.9 billion in additional health costs last year. The RAISE Family Caregivers Act also directs HHS to create a Family Caregiving Advisory Council, similar to the National Plan to Address Alzheimer`s Disease Advisory Council. Both the advisory council and The RAISE Family Caregivers Act was closely modeled after the National Alzheimer’s Project Act.

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