National Family Caregiver Support Program: Eliminate Age Restrictions, Increase Funding
"Does being a caregiver ever get easier? Right now I feel like it's hard to breathe," a family caregiver recently wrote to Denise M. Brown, founder of CareGiving.com. (Denise is pictured above with her father.)
"Today I cried uncontrollably for 45 minutes, then had uncontrollable digestive issues," a family caregiver wrote on CareGiving.com. "I have stress induced shingles, and frankly, I’m bone tired. Any suggestions?"
Wouldn't it be great to suggest to both these family caregivers that they reach out to for help in their communities? That an federally-funded program has help for them in the form of counseling and respite services so they can get support and a break?
Interestingly enough, we do have local agencies which receive federal funds to help family caregivers in our communities. The National Family Caregiver Support Program, launched in 2000, provides five types of services:
- information to caregivers about available services,
- assistance to caregivers in gaining access to the services,
- individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training,
- respite care, and
- supplemental services, on a limited basis.
You probably are scratching your head now, wondering why you haven't heard of such a program and why you haven't been helped by such a program.
It's because the program is woefully underfunded. It also helps those who care for a family member over 60 years of age or a family member of an age diagnosed with dementia. As of the 2006 Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, the following specific populations of family caregivers are eligible to receive services:
- Adult family members or other informal caregivers age 18 and older providing care to individuals 60 years of age and older;
- Adult family members or other informal caregivers age 18 and older providing care to individuals of any age with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders;
- Grandparents and other relatives (not parents) 55 years of age and older providing care to children under the age of 18; and
- Grandparents and other relatives (not parents) 55 years of age and older providing care to adults age 18-59 with disabilities.
In FY 2010, the most recent year for which service data is available, only 700,000 caregivers received services through the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Even worse, only 64,000 family caregivers received respite services ("temporary relief from their caregiving responsibilities").
Only 2% of the estimated 44 million family caregivers in the United States received help through the Family Caregiver Support Program. A fraction of 1% of family caregivers in the United States received respite services through the program.
The budget in FY 2010 was $154,197,000. The FY2016 budget for the program is $150,000,000.
- Increasing the funding for the Family Caregiver Support Program to $1 billion. Money spent now to help and support family caregivers prevents money spent later on our carees' institutional care and our own health. Money spent now to support our physical and emotionally well-being means we can keep our carees home and our own good health.
- Eliminating the age restrictions so any family caregiver, regardless of their caree's age, receives help and support.
When you add your signature, below, be sure to share your story about how hard it is to find help in your community and the difference more help can make in your caregiving experience.
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