Fundamental structural and system reforms, including financing, are needed to comprehensively address caregiver health and well-being, according to a national nonprofit promoting the resilience of family caregivers.
In a Nov. 30 letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers provided recommendations to help identify priorities within the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers under the RAISE Family Caregiver Act.
RCI CEO Jennifer Olsen shared several program initiatives to strengthen caregiver health, well-being and resiliency.
In the coming year, she noted, the RCI will disseminate best practices for supporting caregivers through bereavement. That includes expanding the use of a toolkit for professional caregivers working in assisted living communities, nursing homes and home health agencies, as well as community organizations supporting caregivers.
“Equipping the field to support bereaved caregivers will enhance providers’ and employers’ understanding of associated risk and protective factors,” Olsen wrote. “With these insights, they can take preventive measures, reduce vulnerability and offer continuity of support during periods of loss.”
Ensuring financial and workplace security
The RCI also indicated that it intends to work with employers to develop workplace supports and policies to help reduce professional caregiver stressors and keep paid caregivers in the workforce.
That effort will take the form of “broadening the lens” through which employers consider and evaluate workplace supports to strengthen assistance for caregivers and advance structural reforms, according to the institute.
Olsen said that the RCI will organize innovation labs with employers to develop pilot programs to test supports that keep employee caregivers in the workforce by reducing their stress and protecting their financial security, with a focus on public policy and the availability and affordability of home- and community-based services.
She added that the effectiveness of family caregiver supports is limited if members of the workforce continue to have few opportunities for advanced skill training and receive low compensation and no benefits. The RCI plans to engage partners that are critical to elevating and focusing policy attention on the direct care workforce to assess pathways to advance mutual interests, Olsen said.
The current care system, including long- and short-term care, is “expensive, varies in quality and is difficult for consumers to understand and navigate,” she said. The RCI recommended that the RAISE Family Caregiver Advisory Council prioritize and focus the next phase of the strategy on finance reform.
The letter also stated that former first lady Rosalyn Carter wants HHS to establish a new Office of Caregiver Health within HHS to “elevate and focus unprecedented federal representation, investment and coordination of caregiver support across federal agencies.”