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A Lifesaver For Caregivers

By: MSF Staff

On December 21, 2006, the president signed the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006 (HR 2348) into law, finally acknowledging the millions of Americans caring for a loved one in the home.

To caregivers, respite refers to a much-needed break from the usual caregiver routine. Respite care refers to prearranged or emergency short-term relief. Respite care is not a luxury! It is a necessity for both the caregiver and their loved one.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill was introduced and championed by Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-NJ) and James Langevin (D-RI). In the Senate, a companion bill was co-sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton(D-NY) and Senator John Warner (R-VA). Statistics show that family caregivers are providing 80% of long-term care in the U.S., a level of care valued at $306 billion a year, more than what is spent on nursing home and paid home care combined. While many families feel privileged to provide care so that their loved one may remain at home, the physical, emotional and financial consequences can be overwhelming without respite.

The new law will authorize $289 million over five years for state grants to develop Lifespan Respite Programs to help families access quality, affordable respite care. In the Act, Lifespan Respite Programs are defined as “coordinated systems of accessible, community-based respite care services for family caregivers of children and adults with special needs."

Specifically, the law authorizes funds for the development of state and local lifespan respite programs; planned or emergency respite care services; training and recruitment of respite care workers and volunteers; and caregiver training.

Respite care allows families and caregivers to revitalize and avoid burnout. In time, the Lifespan Respite Care Act will reduce family stress as well as the risk of abuse and neglect. It will allow families to stay involved in their communities and establish additional support systems. It will improve the relationship between caregiver and care-receiver. In the end, it will save public funds by reducing the need for residential, hospital, and other institutional living.

The passing of this bill into law is great news for caregivers everywhere–and it’s about time!

(Last reviewed  7/2009)



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