AARP Announces 2017 State Capitol Caregivers and Super Savers

AARP Announces 2017 State Capitol Caregivers and Super Savers


In addition to advocating for older Americans in the halls of Congress, AARP staff and volunteers are working on the ground in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to make a difference in people’s lives through advocacy. This year, we have helped enact state policies to support more than 30 million family caregivers and provide thousands of workers with a new way to save for retirement.

Achieving these results took a lot of hard work and dedication from state legislators, governors and other elected officials. They worked together – often across party lines – to write, support, and advance commonsense policies that make people’s day-to-day lives a little bit easier and gives them more financial security in their retirement.

To recognize these elected leaders, AARP is proud to announce our fourth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers who fought to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones along with our third annual bipartisan class of Super Savers who fought to help more Americans retire with confidence.

Capitol Caregivers
Every day, 40 million Americans help parents, spouses and other loved ones live independently at home, where they want to be. Family caregiving is a labor of love, to be sure, but it can also be a challenge. Care responsibilities can include providing transportation, cooking meals, managing finances, performing complex medical tasks, helping with bathing and dressing, and so much more. Sixty percent of family caregivers juggle full- or part-time jobs with their caregiving duties, and many are still raising their families.

AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to make these big responsibilities a little bit easier—and we’ve seen real progress in states across the country.

AARP’s 2017 class of Capitol Caregivers recognizes 91 state legislators, five governors, one lieutenant governor, and one justice from more than 30 states, who advanced policies that:

A list of AARP’s 2017 Capitol Caregivers and the legislation they championed can be found here.

Super Savers
Today, 45 percent of working-age households have no retirement savings at all. At AARP, we believe everyone should be able to retire with confidence. That’s why we’re fighting for Work and Save plans that give more workers access to a payroll deduction retirement savings plan. Employees who are able to save for retirement out of their regular paychecks are 15 times more likely to save.

AARP’s third class of Super Savers includes six state legislators and two state treasurers who were integral to the passage of state-facilitated retirement programs in 2017.

A list of AARP’s 2017 Super Savers and the legislation they championed can be found here.

More work to do . . .
In 2018, AARP will continue to work with elected state leaders across the country to fight for the issues that matter to you and your families. To stay up-to-date on our progress, or get involved, sign up here.

More information
2014 Capitol Caregivers

2015 Capitol Caregivers
2016 Capitol Caregivers

2015 Super Savers
2016 Super Savers


Nancy LeaMond is AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer. She leads the organization’s Communities, State and National Group, including government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.

 



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Giving Thanks for America’s Family Caregivers

Giving Thanks for America’s Family Caregivers


As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s also remember that November is National Family Caregivers Month – a time to recognize and express our appreciation for America’s 40 million family caregivers. They are truly the backbone our care system, helping aging parents, spouses, and other relatives and friends manage chronic conditions and disabilities.

At AARP, supporting family caregivers like Olivia Garcia is one of our top priorities. Here is Olivia’s story in her own words:

My name is Olivia, and I am my mother’s primary caregiver. Her name is Rosalinda, and she is 61 years young! My family and I have been taking care of her for 11 years, and she’s been living with us for about four years now. She was diagnosed with dementia at the young age of 54, then Alzheimer’s at 58. It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster of stress, emotions, questions and exhaustion!  But, we love her and know that good we are doing by the quality of care she receives. Thankful to the fullest for our local Agency on Aging that helped us so much during the beginning times of our journey. Mom attends an adult day care during the day so I can continue to work and provide for my young family of five – including mom! Life isn’t easy or fair at times, but your attitude about it makes all the difference. When her moments of clarity come in and she’s full of joy, I know we are doing amazing things for her!  God bless all the caregivers and their families!

To help Olivia and the millions of family caregivers across the country, AARP provides information, develops educational programs, and advocates for a range of federal and state legislation.

Our work is informed and driven by a number of important trends:

 

  • The need for family caregivers is growing. America is aging. By 2030, one in four Americans will be over age 50, and by 2050, one out of five will be age 65 and over. People are living longer, managing chronic conditions over an extended period of time, and, more and more, they are staying in their own homes.
  • Family caregivers are as diverse as America. We sometimes talk about the “typical” family caregiver . . . a 49 year old woman who spends 24 hours each week caring for her mother.  But, this data point masks the broader picture. Nearly one in ten family caregivers are over age 75. One in four are Millennials. Four in ten are male. While there may be a common bond, every caregiver’s situation is different, so there is no one-size-fits all solution to the challenges they face.
  • Technology innovations to support caregivers and their loves ones could be transformative – but we’re not there yet. Venture capital firms are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that provide technology, tools and resources for senior care. And, brand-name companies are rethinking how their products can be used by – and marketed to – seniors and others who require help to stay independent. But, an AARP study found that while 71% of caregivers say they are interested in technology that supports their caregiving tasks, only 7% are using what’s currently available.
  • Family caregiving is a workplace issue. A little more than 60% of American’s family caregivers are in the paid workforce. That’s 24 MILLION Americans who are balancing their caregiving responsibilities with jobs – either full or part-time. Employers can do a lot to helpAARP’s research shows that creating a caregiver-friendly workplace can increase productivity and help attract and retain talent. We’ve created a toolkit to help employers support their caregiver employees.
  • Family caregiving is no longer simply a personal issue. It is now firmly planted as a BIPARTISAN legislative and political issue.  At the state level, the CARE Act – a law that helps family caregivers get information and training to support a loved one who has been in the hospital – is on the books in 39 states and territories that cover the political spectrum. And, here in Washington, AARP is proud to work with Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle to promote legislation like the Credit for Caring Act and the RAISE Family Caregivers Act.

 

In September, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent . . . a strong sign that in an age of partisan gridlock, family caregiving is an issue that policymakers of all political stripes can get behind. AARP is continuing to bolster support for the legislation in the U.S. House.

We are hopeful that Congress will pass the bill to create a national strategy that recognizes and supports family caregivers so families like Olivia Garcia’s can get the help they need to make the big responsibilities of caregiving a little bit easier.


Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.



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Employers Can Do More to Support Family Caregivers

Employers Can Do More to Support Family Caregivers


With more than 60 percent of America’s 40 million family caregivers balancing their caregiving responsibilities with paid employment, there is a pressing need for employers to do more to support employees who are also caring for loved ones. In fact, according to a survey AARP conducted with the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an overwhelming majority of the company benefit managers – 82% – say that family caregiving will become an increasingly important issue for their companies over the next five years. That is why AARP is partnering with NEGBH to help employers assess their company culture and develop strategies and policies to create a caregiver-friendly workplace.

In addition to time spent at the office or job site, family caregivers, on average, spend a little over 24 hours per week on a whole host of tasks to help their parents, spouses, children with disabilities and other loved ones live independently. They manage medications, prepare and serve meals, help their loved ones to bathe and dress, arrange transportation (or do the driving themselves), handle financial and legal matters and much, much more. About 60 percent of family caregivers assist with medical or nursing tasks like injections and tube feedings.

Some have to readjust their work schedules, often working fewer hours than they otherwise would, using paid time off for caregiving duties and taking unpaid time off when needed. Others work more hours or take an additional job to cover the bills. Many put their own health at risk for the sake of their loved one, and many say they feel isolated at work, unable to be honest about the responsibilities they carry at home for fear of judgement or reprisal.

There are a lot of things employers can do to support employees who are also family caregivers. It could be something as simple – and low cost – as forming an employee support group or distributing a list of caregiver resources. Some companies are leveraging employee assistance programs and new digital tools to help employees manage their care tasks. Other practices to consider are re-thinking sick leave and flex-time policies to take caregiving responsibilities into account or offering back-up care and respite care services as employee benefits.

At AARP, we live our values with paid caregiving leave, flex-time and back-up care options and an organizational culture that recognizes and supports our family caregiving colleagues. (I’ve frankly never worked at an organization that walked the walk on this issue the way AARP does.) A recent report by AARP and ReAct, a coalition dedicated to addressing challenges faced by employee caregivers, highlights a number of promising practices at other organizations. For example, Allianz Life offers quarterly educational sessions and a 24/7 support line for employees caring for aging relatives and other loved ones. Bank of America employees can tap emergency back-up care at a reduced rate and have access to legal and senior care consultants. And, staff at CBS can get help navigating the health care system through the company’s Health Advocate program.

To help other organizations support employee caregivers, we’ve developed an employer toolkit in collaboration with NEBGH. Resources include a self-assessment tool and a comprehensive guide complete with checklists and handouts to help employers identify and implement ways to support the caregivers in their workforce. One quick and easy step in the right direction is a list of caregiving resources ready that can be copied and distributed. The toolkit is available for free at www.employercaregivingtoolkit.org.

Whatever the changes, our research shows that having caregiver-friendly workplace policies is good for business. 87% of respondents in our caregiving and workplace survey say that supporting family caregivers in the workforce can increase productivity, and 75% say that having a caregiving-friendly workplace would help attract and retain talent. In addition, policies that help family caregivers take care of themselves – physically and mentally – can reduce employers’ healthcare costs in the long run.

As our country ages with more older Americans staying in their homes, the nation’s 40 million family caregivers are the bedrock of our long-term care system. We need to make sure that that they have the resources and support they need to care for their loved ones – especially when they are also working hard to support themselves and their families.


Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond



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Moving Dementia Caregiver Support Services into the Mainstream

Moving Dementia Caregiver Support Services into the Mainstream


Many of you, like me, know that family caregiving for someone you love can be a source of deep satisfaction and meaning.  But caring for a person with dementia, known as dementia caregivers, can exact an especially high emotional, physical and financial toll on family members themselves.

Dementia caregivers commonly experience more emotional upset, distress, isolation, and financial burdens than those caring for people with other illnesses who do not have dementia because daily care needs are progressive, complex, and frequently unpredictable.

More people are living at home with dementia and relying on their family to care for them

Addressing the needs of dementia caregivers is important because of the growing number of older people living at home with dementia who rely primarily on their families for help with basic tasks of daily living.  According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the proportion of people with dementia dying at home increased significantly between 1999 and 2014, from 13.9 percent in 1999 to 24.9 percent in 2014, underscoring the increasing numbers of people with dementia residing outside of a nursing home setting.  This means that more people than ever are caring at home for someone living with dementia often without adequate and affordable support services, exacerbating the stresses all the more.

Part of that stress is the cost to families.

A recent study on the lifetime cost of dementia shows that families incur 70 percent of the total cost of care ($225,140 in 2015 dollars) for a person living with dementia. Medicare ($52,540) and Medicaid ($44,090) accounted for 30 percent of the total cost.

Taking care of dementia caregivers

Targeted care strategies, such as education, skills training, and counseling, can make a real difference in the daily lives of people with dementia and their family caregivers.  It is especially important, for example, to have someone to talk to when help is needed to address the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Successful programs for dementia caregivers begin with the health or social service provider talking with the family caregiver about his or her unique needs, problems, strengths, and resources, in what is known as a caregiver assessment.

Although evidence-based programs hold promise to create more value in the lives of dementia caregivers, these proven services are still not commonplace in communities and available to the families who could benefit from them.

A new AARP Public Policy Institute paper highlights examples of successful dementia caregiver programs and services. The report also identifies several barriers to scaling up evidence-based programs, including health care and social service providers’ lack of knowledge about successful caregiver services, and limited technical assistance to help providers understand how to identify family caregivers who might benefit from such programs and services.  Barriers also include a lack of integration of caregiver supports in existing systems of health care and long-term services and supports, and a lack of sufficient funding and payment mechanisms to adopt proven caregiver support services in practice settings.

The forthcoming National Research Summit on Dementia Care aims to shine a light on the need to accelerate the scaling up of evidence-based services for individuals living with dementia and their family caregivers.  Advancing these programs to reach families who need them should be a priority at the federal, state and local levels.

 

Lynn Friss Feinberg is a senior strategic policy adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute.  She has conducted policy analysis and applied research on family caregiving and long-term services and supports for more than 30 years.

 

 

 



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U.S. Senate considers RAISE Family Caregivers Act

U.S. Senate considers RAISE Family Caregivers Act


This week, the U.S. Senate began its consideration of the RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage) Family Caregivers Act – an important piece of legislation that would start a national conversation about ways to aid American’s greatest support system – family caregivers. Thanks to the leadership and support of Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) the bill was quickly approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (which goes by the very appropriate acronym . . .HELP).

Every day, more than 40 million Americans across the country are caring for parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities and other loved ones so they can live independently in their homes and communities for as long as possible. They manage medications, help a loved one with bathing and dressing, prepare and feed meals, arrange transportation to medical appointments (or do the driving themselves), handle financial and legal matters and much, much more. Many do all of this while working full-time and raising families.

The unpaid care family caregivers provide — a staggering 37 billion hours valued at about $470 billion annually — helps delay or prevent more costly care and unnecessary hospitalizations, saving taxpayer dollars.

I know from firsthand experience that caring for a loved one is a tremendous responsibility. As my two millennial sons and I care for my husband, their father, who has ALS, I know that, while my experience may be in some ways unique, I have much in common with my fellow caregivers. Every family caregiver I encounter – including the thousands who have shared their stories on AARP’s I Heart Caregivers – expresses a need for support, whether that means help at home, training, workplace flexibility, or the opportunity to get some relief from their caregiving responsibilities.

The RAISE Act Family Caregivers Act recognizes this tremendous need and calls for the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers, bringing together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to identify specific actions communities, providers, government, employers and others can take to make 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.

AARP commends the sponsors of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act — as well as the co-chairs of the bicameral, bipartisan Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus — for their leadership on this important issue. They understand that family caregiving is not a Democratic or a Republican issue, or even an older or younger person’s issue. Recent research shows that a surprising one-quarter of Millennials are family caregivers.  And, according to a poll we conducted, four-in-ten Millennials say that they are already worried about taking care of their parents on a day-to-day basis.

In fact, this is a family issue that touches us all. We are either family caregivers now, were in the past, will be in the future — or will need care ourselves one day.

Last year, we made tremendous progress on this important piece of legislation. This year, we look forward to working with the bill’s Senate and House champions – as well as other organizations that advocate for and support family caregivers as well as family caregivers themselves – to push this bill over the finish line.


Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.

Photos: iStock/BraunS, iStock/ktaylorg, AARP



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Breaking Stereotypes: Male Family Caregivers

Breaking Stereotypes: Male Family Caregivers


Photo courtesy of iStock

Being a family caregiver—that is, providing unpaid care to a parent, spouse, friend or other adult loved one—is hard work. It can also be rewarding work. The struggles, frustrations and stress associated with this caregiving journey cross gender lines. While the “typical” family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who takes care of a relative, 4 out of 10 caregivers are men.[i]

Men, often due to societal perceptions, have been less likely to talk about the emotional and economic challenges of caregiving. For example, a male family caregiver in a recent focus group summed it up well: “My dad taught me that men don’t cry. I don’t want to be crying on somebody’s shoulder.” From the playgrounds to the basketball court, from television images to song lyrics, the stereotypical drumbeat of manhood is reinforced:  Man-up. Be strong. Men are not supposed to cry. Do these sentiments—sometimes spoken, sometimes implied—sound familiar?

Such beliefs can have a lasting impact on the individual who must decide whether to conform to or combat these societal perceptions. They also have implications for industries and workers like health professionals and other service providers, who may not understand the multidimensional role men are playing in what society typically views as predominantly a woman’s role.

The role of family caregiver is one example.  There are 40 million family caregivers in the United States helping with everyday activities and personal tasks ranging from bathing, dressing, wound care, and medication management to transportation and finance and more.

A recent AARP Public Policy Institute report found that men represent 40 percent of all family caregivers; that’s 16 million male family caregivers.

A diverse group in many respects, these husbands, brothers, sons, sons-in-law, partners, friends, and neighbors are joining—either by choice, obligation, or necessity—the army of family caregivers providing care across the country. They are breaking stereotypes and misconceptions. Contrary to popular belief, male family caregivers are not just managing finances or helping with housework. They are also assisting with dressing, bathing, and toileting as well as performing medical and nursing tasks such as injections, tube feedings and wound care.

Many men feel unprepared or uncomfortable taking on these tasks. Although most male caregivers agree that caregiving is stressful, very few reach out for help; they often avoid talking about their situation with others and don’t feel comfortable discussing the emotional challenges of caregiving.

In many cases, male family caregivers are caring for a spouse or partner. The PPI report shows that spousal caregivers in general face unique challenges, in part because they may lack an adequate support network.

However, there were differences between males caring for a spouse and those caring for a parent.

  • They provide more hours of care, and are more likely to be primary caregivers with little to no support from other family members, compared to male family caregivers taking care of a parent or other relative.
  • Men caring for a spouse reported having been a caregiver for a longer period of time than other unpaid male family caregivers (5.1 years compared to 3.9).

 

Caregiving is not easy for any caregiver, men included.  A recently released series of videos highlight the unique experiences of male caregivers: a  millennial caring for his wife and their young daughter,  a partner sharing the challenges and triumphs of caring for a terminally ill partner,  a traditional-style support group for African-American male family caregivers,  and an organization that support a group of male family caregivers  of partners with a terminal illness.

By seeing and then understanding these diverse experiences, challenges, and needs, we can develop tools and resources to meet this sizable and growing group of family caregivers where they are. Caregiving is an issue where men and women can work together to support one another along this important yet challenging path.

 

 

Jean Accius is vice president of livable communities and long-term services and supports for the AARP Public Policy Institute. He works on Medicaid and long-term care issues.

 

 

 

 



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