Mature woman caring for her elderly mother

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers is urging the Department of Health and Human Services to put more funding and structural support behind its National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers under the RAISE Family Caregiver Act.

RCI praised the Biden administration in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra for providing “long overdue visibility on federal commitments” to family caregivers. However, the Americus, GA-based nonprofit also said the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which will administer the program, needs better funding and authority to “fully realize and compel the promise” of the strategy.

RCI top executive Jennifer Olsen argued the $1.6 billion earmarked to support the nation’s estimated 53 million family caregivers is too little and inequitable. 

“Although critical, the vast majority of the $1.6 billion in federal direct caregiver support ($1.4 billion) is available only to caregivers of veterans meeting certain qualifying criteria,” Olsen stated. “RCI recommends that the RAISE Council focus the next iteration 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, saying a centralized office can dismantle silos that are barriers to addressing the needs of family caregivers.

HHS launched the National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers last September. The program is aimed at supporting and coordinating long-term care services for family caregivers and their care recipients. The goals of the strategy include: strengthening services and supports for family caregivers, ensuring caregivers’ financial and workforce security, as well as expanding data, research and evidence-based practices to support family caregivers.

Olsen said the strategy is a step in the right direction since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has primarily focused on the value of the caregiver supporting the patient, rather than the actual caregiver.

 “RCI’s comments are not a critique of ACL or any other federal agency, but rather an assessment of both the current landscape and the likelihood of effectively implementing the strategy if there are no changes made within the federal infrastructure,” she explained.

Carter founded RCI in 1987 to promote the health, strength and resilience of family caregivers.