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Hope for Family Caregivers Who Give So Much
The Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act offers some help for family caregivers

Back in 1998 through 2007, my sisters and I cared for our parents. Our mother lived with several chronic diseases, and father lived with Alzheimer's disease. We were among America's 40 million family caregivers. At the time, I was working full-time but both sisters were retired.

It's difficult to combine caregiving and working because both are full-time. I've often heard the saying, "There's no leaving the job at 5:00 PM, an employee will always bring the workday home." I found out as a caregiver, the same goes for elder care, "A family caregiver never leaves the worry and stress about parent care in the home, they'll bring the concerns and issues with them to work." That was my story. It was difficult to separate the two.

Each day, I prayed to win the lotto so I could be with my parents, since their care demanded a lot of assistance. I asked HR for Family Medical Leave but was rejected. Back in early 2000, HR didn't get how elder care was such an issue, however, they could relate to child care much easier.

In June of 2017, I praised Congress for passing the bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act." Hooray for families! And on January 22nd, the US President signed into law the RAISE Family Caregivers Act. It's the first step in creating a national strategy aimed at the relatives and partners who provide care.

Support for the Family Caregiver
Does the RAISE Act offer support for the family caregiver?

How the Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act can Help

One of the goals of RAISE is to increase financial security for family caregivers -- it's a much needed support for those of us giving care. I know the types of financial supports I'd like to have seen back in my caregiving days, like earned credits in Social Security if I took a leave of absence. Also, work-related strategies like telecommute, or part-time and flexible hours would have been a big relief. But that was early to mid-2000's. Today, employers and HR departments tilt in favor of elderly caregiving.

Here are other examples that the Seniorcare.com Aging Council hope to see in the near future:

Advice from home care experts
How experts feel the RAISE Act can help
  • "1) Provide a Social Security earnings credit to family caregivers who take unpaid time away from employment, either by leaving their job or reducing hours. This prevents future Social Security benefits from being penalized due to caregiving. 2) Expand government programs that pay family caregivers. 3) Expand benefits programs and tax credits that help with out-of-pocket caregiving expenses." Connie Chow, DailyCaring.com
  • Many family caregivers give up jobs to be able to care for an aging or ailing family member. Being able to access Medicare or another medical insurance program would allow them to take care of themselves as well as someone else. Further, if a caregiver, usually a woman, stops working, her retirement is jeopardized. Most programs for the elderly/caregivers are for those who qualify for Medicaid, thus eliminating benefits for those who are over the Medicaid limit and they are the ones who need help the most." Donna Schempp, LCSW At Home with Growing Older.
  • "One of my clients who works for a large law firm has a HR department that does many of the phone calls and research family caregivers often need to do during work hours." Margo Rose, BodyAwareGrieving.com
  • "A lump sum policy can be used to pay relatives or partners providing home-based custodial care. Since Medicare does not pay for custodial care, we recommend lump sum first diagnosis (cancer/heart attack/stroke) insurance and/or a whole life policy. A whole life policy that has accumulated cash value can also assure financial security for family caregivers and allow seniors to remain in their home." Maureen Fitzgerald, Ph.D., BestMedigapRate.com
  • "The problem with the current support services and financial reimbursement for caregivers is that it all runs through the Medicaid system. You have to be already impoverished to get the little bit of help offered. Opening Adult Day Care centers and offering financial help through unemployment insurance or social security to people above the Medicaid limits would go a long way to provide financial security. It doesn't seem possible though with Social Security already under attack." Caren Isaacs , GetHealthHelp.com
  • "Financial security will become a major problem in the United States given current demographic predictions. Individuals are outliving their retirement savings and have, in general, not saved enough for the astronomical cost of home care. I believe that advanced planning is advised so that as many contingencies are covered as is possible. Working with a professional financial planner as early in the aging process as is practicable would be wise." Marci Lobel-Esrig, Silverbills.com
  • "One of the biggest issues that arise when relatives and partners step in as caregivers is that they typically have to give up some earning capacity. They're investing hours to care for loves ones and sacrificing compensation as they do. There must be formal measures in place to help make up for that lost income, and it would seem that tax incentives and tax credits would be a natural place to start." Wendi Burkhardt, Silvernest.com
  • "Education! Every family should understand the financial implications associated with caring for an elderly or disabled loved one. Education should at a minimum include estimates of realistic costs associated with care, general information about the differences between Medicare and Medicaid, and the importance of purchasing long-term care insurance well in advance of any potential need." Eboni Green, CaregiverSupportServices.com

The RAISE Family Caregiving Act is finally here and one that America's first responders in elderly care are eager to see what's next.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.