Caregiving has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Being the oldest of three kids with two immigrant parents, caregiving responsibilities fell on me from an early age. Whether it was translating information at the doctor’s office, handling tax papers for my parents and extended family, or securing Section 8 housing for other Vietnamese immigrants in the community, these responsibilities were mine as I was the only one who could speak and understand English.
But much like many others in similar predicaments, I did not know I was a caregiver, nor did I know there was a term to describe the care I was providing. It wasn’t until my 2016 internship at The John A. Hartford Foundation that it dawned on me that I have been a caregiver my whole life.
Caregiving duties for my parents and grandma changed once I moved away for college and as my siblings grew older. They took on my former responsibilities while I took on new responsibilities as a long-distance caregiver, such as providing financial and administrative support. Naturally, being a long-distance caregiver has been difficult as I am not physically with my family, however, knowing my siblings are there to provide care has given me peace of mind.
The Roadmap provides examples of how other states have made use of new funding.
My experience as a caregiver has taught me the importance of a “village of supports” to care for older loved ones and to mitigate the risk of caregiver burnout, which is why I am a strong advocate of the RAISE Act State Policy Roadmap for Family Caregivers, as it aims to provide a “village of supports” through state and local legislatures.
The Roadmap is meant to assist efforts from the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers, which highlighted 350 actions the federal government will take and more than 150 actions that can be adopted at other levels of government across the private sector, all to support family caregivers. This national strategy was developed by advisory councils established by the original RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage) Family Caregivers Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, both of which had extensive input from family caregivers.
The RAISE Act Roadmap
The purpose of the RAISE Act State Policy Roadmap for Family Caregivers is to help states interested in developing and expanding supports for family caregivers of older adults by offering resources for identifying and implementing innovative and emerging policy strategies.
The Roadmap focuses on policies, programs and funding opportunities for state and local governments to expand such supports and services in the continuum of care, across five value areas:
- Public awareness and outreach to family caregivers,
- Engagement of family caregivers in health services and systems,
- Services and supports,
- Financial and workplace security for employed family caregivers, and
- Research, data and evidence-informed practices.
The strength of the RAISE Act State Policy Roadmap for Family Caregivers lies in its unique ability to identify and provide practical funding opportunities that state and local governments can tap into for expanding family caregiver supports and services.
In addition, the Roadmap provides concrete examples of other states that have made use of these funding opportunities, as well as other ways to leverage existing funding in national polices such as the Older Americans Act, the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act (CARE), The National Family Caregiver Support Program and Medicaid to expand help for family caregivers.
For example, the Roadmap offers information on how states can leverage the national CARE Act by working with hospitals on its implementation. The CARE Act requires hospitals to inform individuals that they can identify a family caregiver in their record, include caregiver contact information in a patient’s health record (with permission), train the family caregiver on needed medical or nursing tasks, and provide advance notice and consultation regarding discharge plans.
The lack of enforcement of the CARE Act at the state level provides state and local governments with a unique opportunity to improve caregiver identification and to ensure that they are engaged in health services and systems. This is just one of many examples provided by the Roadmap across its five value areas.
How to Act Locally, While Thinking Nationally
For people working at organizations on a local level, funding is a common challenge that can limit the development of services and supports for family caregivers. The Roadmap identifies funding opportunities for local entities that may be interested in or are already providing family caregiver services and supports.
This includes funds that may be available through a state’s Master Plan on Aging. To receive funding from the Older American’s Act, state legislatures need to submit their state plan on aging to the Administration for Community Living, describing their goals and strategies for implementing programs and services for older adults. Local entities with services that align with a state’s plan on aging may apply for grants to receive funding.
The RAISE Act State Policy Roadmap for Family Caregivers is a powerful tool for state and local legislatures to ensure the development of a village of supports for family caregivers across the continuum of care. For those working for an organization that provides direct services and/or advocates for family caregivers, I highly recommend reading through the RAISE Act State Policy Roadmap for Family Caregivers, as it provides detailed explanation of policies, programs and funding opportunities that may directly affect the accessibility of services and supports available to family caregivers in your community.
And it is crucial for advocates in the aging sector to help promote the Roadmap. Similar to the advocacy that raised awareness in combating the lack of caregiver self-identification (thus enabling the CARE Act), it is vital for advocates to promote the Roadmap to maximize its visibility and use by state and local legislatures.
Ocean Le, an ASA RISE alum, is senior program and communications manager of the Diverse Elders Coalition, in New York City.