When It's an Epidemic, You Don't Need a Caucus


When It's an Epidemic, You Don't Need a Caucus


bridge-593148_640When the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in the United States, we sprung into action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immediately put in place ways to track the disease and shared guidelines with health care professionals to ensure any further cases were properly diagnosed and contained.

And, so it has been.

When we know about our epidemics—our health crises in our communities—we take care of them so that we can take care of our community. We want individuals within our communities to be well.

According to research released in 2009 by National Alliance for Caregiving, almost 66 million individuals provide care to a family member. If 10% of these family caregivers are stressed (and we know stress causes illness), then we've got an epidemic.

We should take action not call meetings.

And, yet, yesterday, four lawmakers in essence called for yet another series of meetings to discuss how to help family caregivers. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), along with Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) announced the creation of the Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) caucus. Organizations such as AARP and the American Health Care Association support this caucus.

According to coverage of the announcement by The Washington Post, “The four lawmakers offered few specifics of the types of policies they might pursue, and all were whisked away by staff without taking questions.

I'm just flabbergasted that we still have to meet to talk about raising awareness and how to help family caregivers. I'm almost tongue tied that an announcement about helping family caregiver didn't include any specifics about that help. The Family Caregiver Support Program, established in 2000, provides federal funding to local communities to help those who care for individuals 60 years of age and older. Don't we have enough data from this program to know how to help family caregivers? Or does this simply show the ineffectiveness of this program?

We have an epidemic in our communities called family caregiver stress. Research released yesterday by AARP in conjunction with the announcement found that more than 64% of surveyed family caregivers reported feeling emotionally stressed, while 39% felt financial strains. It's important that we view family caregiver stress as an epidemic so that we get immediate focus and funding to help.

Family caregivers need reliable, affordable respite programs that are available every day (Sunday through Saturday) and financial aid to help cover the costs of providing care. They need health care professionals—individuals that family caregivers encounter over and over and over—to share resources and education and help.

According to research released in 2013 by Pew Research Center, two out of every five individuals care for a family member or friend--almost 40% of the U.S. adult population. We need the equivalent of the Red Cross, the National Guard, FEMA and our local representatives to come out in force to help. We don't want them to meet with us, we want them to help us. Expand what's already in the community:

  • Give the adult day centers more funding so the centers are readily available and accessible,

  • Create waiting areas in hospitals for family caregivers to connect and share with each other (the best resource for a family caregiver is another family caregiver),

  • Set up social workers in doctors offices to meet with family caregivers to share resources and coping strategies,

  • Make emergency funds available to family caregivers who've pinched the life out of their pennies.

Just do something!

And, when you do, when you bring relief in the form of services and money to family caregivers, you also stimulate local economies by creating jobs and keeping family caregivers in the workforce. (From the preliminary data from our survey of working family caregivers, we know that 33% of respondents struggle with the question, Should I quit my job because of my caregiving responsibilities?) The best economic stimulus is helping family caregivers.

We've got a health care crisis raging in our communities. Let's treat for what it is—an epidemic. We need immediate help, not more meetings.

Want to help us fight the epidemic of family caregiver stress? Sign our petition for the CDC to track family caregiver stress and its source just like it tracks other health care crises in our communities.

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I just signed it & am sharing it on my facebook page. This is important & needs to be recognized as there are more and more people that are caregivers for family members.