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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Thank You, Nurses.

Thank You, Nurses.


During National Nurses Week, I am making a special effort to say, “thank you,” to all the nurses in my life, and I invite you to do the same. Each and every day, in communities across the country, nurses help their patients to get and stay well.  They use their incredible skills to comfort us in difficult times, and care for us when we’re at our most vulnerable.

For America’s 40 million family caregivers, nurses often become even more heroic as they help us care for our parents, spouses and other loved ones. For me, Nurse Sue was an invaluable member of our family’s team. Her assistance was critical to keeping my Mom safe at home.

Family caregivers often share their stories with us on I Heart Caregivers and the @AARPadvocates Facebook page.  It seems many also have their own versions of Nurse Sue:

Judith: “I could not have been my mother’s caregiver without all the care and advice given to me by the nurses. THANK YOU ALL.”

Nana: “When my husband was alive the nurses were angels. They really took care of my husband in our home, especially the hospice ones, they were just awesome.”

Barbara: “Where would we be without them [nurses] to care for us & our families when we need them?”

Dolores: “Nurses are in a league of their own! They do such wonderful work and it often goes unnoticed. I have a lot of admiration for nurses!”

Nurses heal. Red tape doesn’t. 
That’s why AARP is fighting to cut through the red tape that prevents nurse practitioners—and all advanced practice registered nurses—from doing their jobs. Right now, 28 states still have outdated rules that restrict nurse practitioners from using all their skills and training to provide primary and preventative care, including:

  • routine health care such as diagnosing and treating patients,
  • management of chronic conditions,
  • ordering lab tests,
  • prescribing medications
  • performing annual exams
  • and much, much more

Keep in mind: nurse practitioners have master’s or doctoral degrees and advanced training, so they can give patients the care we count on. By modernizing state rules, patients, family caregivers—and our loved ones—will have better opportunity to receive the care we need, when and where we need it.  And, yes, this means: at home and in our communities.

To all nurses, again, I give you my thanks.  Your caring helped make me a better, stronger family caregiver. For that, alone, I am grateful.

Where does your state stand when it comes to rules that allow nurse practitioners to do their jobs?

Sign up to get involved and help AARP cut the red tape.


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.



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AARP Public Pension Guide Breaks Down Complex Issue for Elected Officials

AARP Public Pension Guide Breaks Down Complex Issue for Elected Officials


Pop and his grandaughter

My pop was a bus driver for 25 years.  Once in retirement, I would have loved my Mom and Pop to relocate to D.C. to live with me. But they loved their life and community and wanted to age in their own home – just like millions of Americans.

Luckily, pop had a public pension, which gave him and my mom the financial security they needed to retire with confidence and dignity—and to keep living independently in their own home.  Pop worked hard and counted on having his pension for their financial security. Firefighters, nurses, teachers, and other public employees all across America also count on their public pensions.  

Exactly for this reason, it’s critical that our elected officials and those who advise them understand how public pensions operate. This helps them meet the needs of employees and retirees, as well as employers and taxpayers.

To help with this effort, AARP has created a new public pension resource, Understanding Public Pensions: A Guide for Elected Officials, coauthored with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence.  We hope that many state and local policymakers will get the chance to review the guide, prior to making changes to their states pension plans, in particular.

The guide provides key facts about public pensions. It also discusses the important role policymakers play in making sure their state and local pension plans are well designed and adequately funded. This helps ensures they can meet the goals of all stakeholders, including:

  • attracting and retaining employees
  • workforce management
  • retirement security
  • keeping pension costs manageable


The guide also reviews:

  • Options for public pension plan design
  • The importance of adequate financing
  • How to develop a sound pension funding policy
  • Important considerations when making changes to a pension plan
  • The effects of various proposals on the workforce and employees, and resulting financial impacts

Fighting for You
AARP is working to make sure that state and local policymakers have the information they need. This helps support strong public pensions which:

  • Enables our firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public employees to have financial independence in retirement
  • Promotes financial security which keeps people from requiring costly public services to meet their basic needs as they age


This is why AARP’s state offices from Oregon to Colorado to South Carolina to Rhode Island continue to advocate for a defined benefit pension as an important means for ensuring financial security in retirement.

This guide is the third in a series of public pension resources recently supported by AARP. The other reports, which examine how state governments have pre-funded their pensions and review significant changes made to public pensions in recent years, can be found here.


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

 



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Recognizing The Value of Volunteers

Recognizing The Value of Volunteers


When you work for an organization powered by more than 58,000 exceptional volunteers, National Volunteer Week is more than a footnote on the calendar. It’s an important reminder to thank and honor the unpaid heroes who make a difference in our communities through their time, experience and dedication.

I see the incredible value of volunteers’ commitment every day. There is honestly no way that AARP could meet our goals for improving the lives of older Americans without their hard work.  Across the country, AARP volunteers are making a contribution through actions large and small. Many are serving in our efforts to support family caregivers, help individuals save for retirement, and fight against proposals that raise healthcare costs and cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Others help friends and neighbors file taxes, protect against fraud, improve their driving skills and brush up their technology know-how. Still more are working on ways to making their communities great places to live for people of all ages.  The list goes on and on.

Of course, our volunteers are far from alone. More than 62 million Americans devote their time (an estimated 7.9 billion hours a year!) – and passion – to service.

Why do they do it? According to an AARP survey of people 45+, the top reasons are all about giving back and making a difference for their communities and people in need. While being acknowledged for their efforts didn’t even crack the list, genuine appreciation from those we love and value goes a long way.

So please, take a little time out of your week to recognize the volunteers in your life with a cup of coffee, a hug or simply your heartfelt thanks. It requires so little and means so much!

And, THANK YOU to all of our wonderful AARP volunteers! (You should know that my relationship with AARP volunteers goes back a long way. I was actually introduced to the organizations by volunteers . . . . my parents and other family members who served through an AARP Chapter in New Jersey.) You truly are the secret to our success.


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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AARP Volunteers Are Fighting For You

AARP Volunteers Are Fighting For You


During National Volunteer Week I’d like to stop and say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of AARP volunteers who are fighting for families as part of our multi-state advocacy campaigns across every state, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  By giving your time and energy to advocate for the 50-plus and their families, you’ve helped to:


Here are snapshots of just a few of our incredible volunteers.

Pat from Connecticut
Pat helped AARP Connecticut champion the CARE Act, a new law that supports family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home. Recently she had a caregiver thank her for her work. Pat shared,

“She (the caregiver) said, would you go back to AARP and all the volunteers there and tell them thank you. Thank you for standing up for the seniors. Thank you for standing up for the people of Connecticut.” Pat continues, “And then I realized that’s why I volunteer.”

Pat from CT

Earl G. from Ohio

“I believe that AARP performs an essential service for members and all Ohioans to make sure they receive a fair shake on the issues we support and I am happy to volunteer my time for this important work.”

Earl represents AARP and the interests of Ohioans 50-plus in his service on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Telecommunication Study. He’s working to make sure Ohioans only pay what’s fair and justified for reliable utility service.

Monica S. from Florida

“The needs of caregivers vastly outweigh the resources we have today.   We are seeing the tip of the iceberg of the caregiver crisis.   I am a proud AARP volunteer addressing this issue.”

When it comes to supporting family caregivers, Monica’s doing it all. She advocates for more support for family caregivers and their loved ones at the state capitol, organizes conferences, recruits for events, is helping to build a caregiving coalition and much more.

Julia from Texas
Julia is fighting for more support for family caregivers—a subject near and dear to her heart being a caregiver herself.

“I am so glad that AARP for this legislative session is trying to work in this area especially to give caregivers some measure of support.”

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Julia the caregiver

"When you're married and your significant other gets ill, you truly experience what it means to be a caregiver," says Julia of San Antonio.

Posted by AARP Texas on Monday, April 10, 2017

 

Mike and Marilyn Worner with Sen. Nichol Poolman

Michael and Marilyn W. from North Dakota

During the 2017 legislative session Michael and Marilyn have enthusiastically worked to support family caregivers.  One bill they helped pass was recently signed into law and will help family caregivers get some of the relief and resources they need.

Even more impressive, Mike and Marilyn live 200 miles away from the state capitol. Yet, they have made multiple trips to Bismarck to help fight for family caregivers.

 

 

Thank you to Mike, Marilyn, Earl, Monica, Julia, Pat and ALL our amazing AARP volunteers who devote so much of their time and energy to help others.

Would you like to volunteer with AARP? Visit aarp.org/getinvolved.

 


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.



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What is telehealth and how does it help family caregivers?

What is telehealth and how does it help family caregivers?


I was a long distance caregiver for my Mom and Pop for more than 15 years.   I remember calling home to learn how my Mom’s doctor’s visit went.  My Pop replied “Oh, Doctor Hughes thinks the Buffalo Bills will have a great season this year.” Lots of talk about quarterbacks, but few details on her diagnosis or treatment instructions.

So I made it a point to fly from Washington, DC to Buffalo several times a month to visit, make meals and attend doctor appointments.  Though it was a costly and time consuming practice, at least I had the peace of mind of know their health care status and needs.

It doesn’t matter if you live in a different state or the same house. Caring for a parent, spouse or other loved one can be overwhelming and stressful. The good news is, telehealth is emerging as a tool that can help make life a bit easier through more connected care.

What is telehealth?
Telehealth embraces the use of computers, cellphones or other communication technology to provide patients with the health care they need, when they need it. It doesn’t replace one-on-one, in-person interactions with your doctor, nurse or other health care practitioner. Instead, it creates new and enhanced ways to get care and to take charge of your own or a loved ones’ health. For example:

  • A monitoring device that can alert a family caregiver, and emergency health care providers, when the person being cared for has a stroke, heart attack, or suffers a serious injury.
  • A monitoring device used after you’re released from the hospital to track your progress and vital signs
  • A video chat or online visit with your doctor
  • A video chat with a health care professional in an emergency situation to provide instructions as you wait for help to arrive

With telehealth, I could have attended my parent’s appointments by phone or video, avoiding travel time and costs.

Here are some other family caregivers who could benefit from telehealth.

Larry
For the last seven years, Larry has cared for his 90-year-old mother.

“I rely on house call doctors as my only lifeline. But we live in the country, 60 miles from house call doctors and they do not like to come all the way out here…”

Sometimes people need or prefer to see a doctor in person. Other times, they can avoid the time and expense of driving to an appointment. For Larry and his mom, a video appointment with his mom’s doctor, from the comfort of her home, could ease some of his stress. It could also save him time and money.

Nancy
Nancy cares for her 82-year-old husband Bob.

“Sometimes in life your plans do not work out. We have been coping with dementia with Bob for probably eight years now. He needs help in everything he does… I am seeing the results in my health everyday as I decline mentally and physically.

Many family caregivers, like Nancy, sacrifice their own health to care for others. They often fail to do regular physicals, to consult with a health provider about new symptoms, or talk with a mental health professional about caregiving stress.   Being able to connect with their health provider by phone or email could help family caregivers have time to take care of themselves.

Barriers to Telehealth
While computers, smartphones and other technology can’t replace in person care for all individuals and situations, they can help make health care more accessible, affordable, and convenient. In fact, telehealth has been shown to be as safe and effective in many ways as in-person care.

However, in many states outdated rules and regulations prevent the full use of these tools by patients. AARP is fighting to break down these barriers by passing laws that:

  • Ensure patients, and their family caregivers, have options to use telehealth, especially in their homes and other non-clinical settings
  • Define telehealth broadly to include emerging technology and make sure it can be covered by insurance, including private insurance and Medicaid.
  • Make it easier for doctors and nurses to practice in multiple states, which in turn makes it easier to obtain care via telehealth; Physician and Nurse Compacts are one such vehicle
  • And more!

If we do it right, these tools present a real opportunity.

Where does your state stand?

*map shows 2017 legislative activity


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

Photo: pre-art/iStock



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