With Thanksgiving here, I’m writing, as a young individual with multiple sclerosis (MS), in support of the Lifespan Respite Care Program. November is National Caregiver Awareness Month and I want to remind people of the importance of family caregivers.
They provide 80 percent of long-term care to the chronically ill in the United States. Estimates on the economic value of our nation’s more than 64 million uncompensated family caregivers are between $450 and $522 billion. To put that it into perspective, that was more than Medicaid spending in 2009.
Family caregivers are vital to enable their loved ones to remain at home and in the community. In 2006, Congress authorized the Lifespan Respite Care Program — the only federal program addressing respite issues regardless of age or disability. The program has provided grants to 32 states and the District of Columbia.
Because multiple sclerosis often strikes between the ages of 20 and 50, many respite programs don’t benefit MS families due to our young age. Access to respite care improves caregiver health, promotes family stability and prevents costs to the health-care system and taxpayers.
Please contact your member of Congress, asking to continue to fund the Lifespan Respite Care Program in the final fiscal-year 2015 appropriations bill.
Most of us, at some point, will become a caregiver or need one. I am thankful for mine. Happy Thanksgiving.
The writer chairs the National MS Society’s Pennsylvania Government Relations Committee.