The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) introduced this week its first ever national strategy plan to support family caregivers.
The comprehensive plan — officially called the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers — lays out nearly 350 actions the federal government needs to take in order to make the lives of family caregivers easier as more adults choose to age at home.
The strategy’s core mission is to address resource opportunities for the health, well-being and financial security for family caregivers.
The report also includes over 150 actions that can be taken at lower levels of government and across the private sector.
“Caregivers are sacrificing for their loved ones and often are standing in the health care gap by providing that care,” U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement. “Many of the more than 150 million people who receive health care coverage through Medicare, Medicaid and the Health Insurance Marketplaces rely on trusted friends and family for care. CMS is committed to advancing home- and community-based services and other forms of caregiver support across the lifespan to give caregivers the recognition and resources they need and deserve.”
Actionable items listed in the report include the need to address trauma and its impact on families, advance equity and accessibility for family caregivers in underserved communities and increase funding for state and other local health departments to “systemically embed family caregiving into public health infrastructure and planning.”
HHS estimates that around 53 million people provide some sort of assistance every year to a person close to them as they age, or due to a disability or chronic health condition.
Completely replacing that familial support with paid services would cost an estimated $470 billion every year, according to HHS.
Leaders in the home care industry, like Home Helpers President and CEO Emily Dickison, have stressed the value of family caregivers.
“Most of our clients are not receiving 24/7 care in the home,” Dickison said last week at Home Health Care News’ FUTURE event. “They’re receiving a level of hourly care throughout the home and then it’s the family. Being able to provide [family caregivers] access to resources and education to support them is really important.”
On the same panel discussion, Axxess President and CEO John Olajide agreed, citing the data.
“The data shows the most important social determinant of health is family support,” Olajide said.
The strategy will be updated every two years based on public input and work done by the advisory councils, communities, states, tribes and federal agencies that are developing and implementing the policies.