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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State Guardianship Systems Require Expedited Reform

State Guardianship Systems Require Expedited Reform


Recent news articles spotlight egregious acts conducted by court-appointed guardians against the older individuals entrusted in their care. These reports highlight some of the worst situations occurring within a system that requires expedited improvement, now.

AARP has long fought for state laws to protect older individuals—and their assets—from abuse, and to make sure guardians—public, private, and family caregivers—have the information they need to do their job. Over the past 4 years alone, AARP State Offices across the country have passed more than 45 guardianship-specific laws to address this serious issue.

But more needs to be done, including clamping down on the bad actors by increasing court monitoring, oversight and training of guardians, and mechanisms to follow up with protected individuals.  Specifically, AARP believes reforms must emphasize, at minimum:

  • The Individual: Every individual has different needs and preferences. State laws should emphasize individualized guardianship plans and require courts to order less restrictive options for individuals who are capable of making their own decisions.

 

  • The Guardian: State laws must spell out the duties and responsibilities of a guardian, providing a standard for decision-making focused on the expectations of the person under guardianship, and outline standards of practice and training requirements.  It also must provide a detailed procedure for getting rid of bad actors.

 

  • The Courts: State laws should guide judges to use the least restrictive option available when considering cases for guardianship, including supported decision making, and focus on court oversight and monitoring to help prevent abuse and exploitation.

AARP will continue to work, on a state by state basis, to urge policy makers to ramp up reform of the adult guardianship system because no elder should face abuse or exploitation, especially at the hand of the person tasked with their protection.

For now, if you suspect abuse of a protected individual by a guardian, here’s how to get help:

If you have a story to share about your experience as a guardian for an older individual, we encourage you to visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.

To sign up for updates on AARP’s advocacy efforts in your state, click 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.

Photo: iStock/LPETTET 



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The Power of the 50+ Voter

The Power of the 50+ Voter


“The polls got it wrong.” We hear this a lot when election outcomes don’t match pre-vote predictions.  But what about the exit polls – the Election Day surveys that pollsters and pundits use to tell us what really happened? Turns out, there is a lot those tallies miss – particularly when it comes to older voters.

AARP commissioned an analysis by Echelon Insights of how many people in different age groups actually voted last November using what campaign pros call the ‘voter file’ – state by state data on registered voters and their voting activity. This research revealed some really interesting things.

First, the 2016 exits polls significantly underestimated turnout of older voters. Looking at counts of actual voters in 42 states (the remaining 8 and the District of Columbia do not keep track of voters’ ages), more than half of the 2016 electorate – 55% — was age 50 and up. This is a full nine percentage points higher than the 46% shown in the national exit polls.  In fact, 50+ voters topped 50% in every one of the states where voter file data is available.

Second, voters age 65 and older are the most consistently undercounted. According to national exit polls, this segment of the older voter population was 16% of the 2016 electorate, when the true share is closer to 25%.  And, all of the 25 statewide exit polls conducted in 2016, underreported voters age 65 and older, some by more than 10 percentage points.

Why is this important? The role of older Americans in deciding elections should not be understated.  Americans age 50 and up were not only the largest single voting bloc by age in the last election – they were the majority of voters. This is a trend that we’ve seen over the last few election cycles and one that will continue in 2018.

In fact, older voters will be even more important in 2018 than they were in 2016. Historically, older voters make up an even higher share of the electorate in midterm elections, when participation of younger voters – who are more likely to vote in Presidential years — drops.  In 2014, almost 60% of the 65+ and close to half of 45-64 year olds reported voting – compared to a little over a third of 35-44 year olds and less than one-quarter of 18-34 year olds.

This statistical reality means that in most races, across both red and blue states, older voters pick the winner. They are perhaps the most important swing voters in the country.  In 2016, the 50+ voted for the winning candidate in 17 out of 19 Senate races where we have exit poll data by age. (In Nevada and New Hampshire, the 65+ voted for the winner, while the 50-64 voted for the other candidate.) There was a similar story in 2014. Looking at 23 Senate races, all but one of the winning candidates carried 50+ voters.

With 2018 on the horizon, candidates of both parties need to think about – and talk to – older voters in their states and districts. They are the nation’s most reliable voters. They are informed and engaged . . . and they make up their minds early. So, word to the wise . . . there’s no time to waste.



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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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