FAMILY CAREGIVERS: Provide Billions In Unpaid Services
The Senate Special Committee on Aging convened a hearing yesterday "to draw national attention to" the fact that "[f]amily members and friends provide 80% of the care for the elderly, and without them, more seniors might end up in hospitals and nursing homes." Former first lady Rosalynn Carter testified, "Caregivers deserve our praise for the enormous contributions they make to the American family and our country. But it is time to go beyond just recognition. Direct congressional action is needed." Providing support for caregivers now, National Alliance for Caregiving Director Gail Gibson Hunt said, "means fewer proportional outlays of public dollars for institutional care." Health economist Peter Arno said "the economic value of family caregiving was close to $200 billion."
Course Of Action
The St. Petersburg Times reports that the witnesses suggested a number of steps Congress could take to support family caregivers, such as applying the "Family and Medical Leave Act to small businesses," offering subsidies to "training programs for caregivers" and "more respite services to provide a break to caregivers." In addition, witnesses suggested "direct payments to families to help the cost of care or to make home modifications" and "tax breaks for those who buy long-term care insurance." The Senate Aging Committee plans a hearing next week "on elderly parents of adult disabled children" (Cutter, 9/11).