Bill to Support 40 Million Caregivers Becomes Law

Q. My friend, Molly, is the primary caregiver for her mother, Anne. Anne suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, among other things. After a hospital stay for an infected gall bladder, she came home and the responsibility of caring for Anne fell completely on Molly.

According to Molly, her daily routine includes preparing Anne’s bed, giving her medications, checking her blood sugar level, injecting her with the insulin she needs, washing her clothes and bed sheets, washing her hair and body, buying and preparing her food, and taking her to doctor’s appointments. This doesn’t leave much time for Molly, who works part-time and is a mother herself.

I can tell that Molly is under a lot of pressure in her dual roles as a caregiver, mother, and worker. And from what I’ve read, her situation seems pretty common. Molly does not complain because she says that it’s a “labor of love,” but I can tell she is overwhelmed. What is out there to help overextended caregivers, like Molly, who are trying to keep their loved ones in their homes for as long as possible? Thanks!

November is National Family Caregiver’s Month, a time to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. This annual commemorative month enables us to raise awareness of family caregiver issues; celebrate the efforts of family caregivers; and educate and increase support for family caregivers.

Informal caregivers, such as your friend Molly, provide invaluable support for their loved ones every day and, as you mentioned, she’s not alone. Each year, unpaid family caregivers provide 37 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at an estimated $470 billion — as much as the combined annual sales of Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft. Family caregivers handle essential medical tasks ranging from giving injections to providing wound care. They also provide meals, transportation, and other services. Similar to your friend, many of them do this while working full time and raising their own families.

Recently, legislation to establish a federal strategy to address the needs of family caregivers became law. The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage, or RAISE Family Caregivers Act, recognizes the tremendous need for caregiver support and calls for the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers. The law makes it easier to coordinate care for a loved one, get information, referrals and resources, and improve respite options so family caregivers can reset and recharge.

In addition, the RAISE act calls for the following to support the more than 40 million Americans who help loved ones live independently at home:

  • the creation of a family caregiving advisory council of representatives from the private and public sectors, including family caregivers, older adults and people with disabilities, health care providers, employers, state and local officials, and others to make recommendations regarding the national strategy.
  • advisory council meetings that would be open to the public with opportunities for public input.
  • a national strategy that would identify specific actions that communities, health care providers, employers, government, and others can take to recognize and support family caregivers.
  • ways to make it easier for caregivers to coordinate care and receive information, referrals, and resources.
    What She Can Do Now

Women represent 60% of caregivers. The typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who is caring for a 69-year-old woman — most likely her mother. About 32% of family caregivers provide at least 21 hours of care a week in addition to their full-time or part-time jobs.

It is a huge step in the right direction that the RAISE act is now law, and that more will be done to help overextended caregivers, such as your friend Molly. Similar to any new law, things take time to be put into place. For now, below are some tips to help your friend manage in her dual roles:

Ask for help. Ask for help when it’s needed. While there are many things she can accomplish on her own – accepting the help of a friend or neighbor for small tasks adds up to big rewards. Ultimately, one of the most valuable things caregivers, who are also professionals and mothers, have is time.

Accept help. Sometimes saying “yes” when people offer help – and even voicing the need, brings a sense of teamwork and comfort and support. Most importantly, it is a gift of what we are all short of: time and energy to spend with our families and also meeting our needs and aspirations personally and professionally.
Take some pressure off. Everyone may be depending on your friend, but she needs to remember to find some down time in the midst of it all– even if it means calling on help! She should take time for herself to read a good book (or watch a favorite show) or laugh with a friend to help relieve some stress and recharge. This will help her to be more energized to provide the care that she needs to give.

Put together an elder care team. An elder care team can include physicians, home care professionals, an elder law attorney, and financial planners. Family members on this team can also help out and provide your friend with assistance and much needed respite.

Call in professional reinforcements, for the sake of her health and sanity. Outside of getting family, friends, or neighbors to assist, the local Area Agency on Aging is one place to look for relief. The Eldercare Locator provides a database of resources by ZIP code, and our trusted referrals are also quite helpful. If a nursing home becomes a consideration, using the federal government’s online Nursing Home Compare tool is a great starting point – but be sure to call our office first if you’re looking at nursing home care.

Take care of herself. Caregiving can be both emotionally and mentally taxing, and can easily lead to “caregiver burnout.” While many caregivers continue to face some level of stress and pressure when managing their careers and serving as caregivers, it’s important for them to remember the importance of self-care as well. Suggest that your friend take advantage of services that offer respite and support.

Connect. Your friend should continue to make meaningful connections with other people or communities, as deep and meaningful connections with other people are a critical component to happiness.

Hire an Experienced Elder Law Attorney

An experienced elder law attorney, such as myself, can guide your friend and her family through advance medical directives, Medicare and Medicaid issues, estate planning, family caregiver agreements, and other documents that safeguard the current and future care of her mother.
To make an appointment for a no cost initial consultation, please contact us:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

 

 

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