As National Family Caregivers Month draws to a close, I cannot help but reflect on the many challenges this year has presented to caregivers, families, service programs, and the nation. The strength and resilience of the people we serve and the networks who support them are matched by ACL’s resolve to recognize and support family caregivers. During this season of thanks, I celebrate the progress we have made and assure you that ACL is committed to continuing this important work.
This year, ACL expanded the reach of two key programs that support both families and caregivers. Through three-year grants under the Alzheimer’s Disease Program Initiative, four tribal organizations will work to improve services and supports for families affected by dementia in Indian Country. Additionally, a new Lifespan Respite Special Projects grant launched a three-year effort to enhance workforce development, state-based respite planning, and state and local approaches to assisting families in the development of their own systems of supports.
We also have made great progress fulfilling the requirements of the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act. Working closely with the talented and dedicated members of the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council – which includes a diverse group of family caregivers and stakeholder groups invested in supporting them — we delved into critical issues for families, seeking to understand the challenges they face in supporting their loved ones’ independence—and also looking for solutions.
ACL, the Council, and a remarkable group of partners have brought to life the vision Congress set for the RAISE Act, moving us closer to a National Family Caregiving Strategy. These partners include The John A. Hartford Foundation, the National Academy for State Health Policy, the National Alliance for Caregiving, the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Community Catalyst. The shared commitment of Council members and partners to improving the lives of family caregivers is extraordinary. Each time we meet, I am inspired by their creativity, vision, and dedication to strengthening support for the millions of family caregivers across this country.
Just last week, the Council voted to adopt a comprehensive slate of recommendations that will form the foundation of the National Family Caregiving Strategy. The recommendations cover a range of critical issues we must address in bold and meaningful ways in order to demonstrate that we value family caregivers — and, even more important, to ensure they are able to continue to provide the support they provide. Key issues include improving public awareness and outreach, strengthening services and supports, and addressing financial and workplace concerns. These recommendations provide a path to better recognizing and supporting family caregivers, and in turn, supporting independence and community living for millions of older adults and people with disabilities.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week and look back on this challenging year, I am grateful for the more than 50 million family caregivers across this great country who give their all to support those they love and help them remain independent in their homes and communities. For ACL and the Council, family caregivers are at the core of our mission, and for the nation, they are the cornerstone of our long-term services system. Please join me in giving thanks for these extraordinary people—this month and throughout the year.