Langevin and Harper Introduce Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization

Nov 3, 2015 Issues: Disabilities, Health Care

Coinciding with the start of National Family Caregivers Month, Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Gregg Harper (R-MS), co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, today introduced the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2015. This legislation would reauthorize the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006 at $15 million per year over five years in order to support coordinated respite services for family caregivers.

“Family caregivers perform demanding tasks that allow their loved ones to live at home where they are most comfortable. While the benefits of this type of family caregiving are plentiful, it can take an emotional, mental and physical toll,” said Langevin, who authored and first introduced the Lifespan Respite Care Act in 2002, and as the lead Democratic sponsor, saw it signed into law in 2006. “Access to respite services has been shown to ease that burden, improving caregiver health and promoting family stability. As the only federal program that increases access to and affordability of respite care regardless of age or disability, Lifespan Respite Care is an absolutely essential lifeline for families facing medical challenges.”

“Family caregivers are the backbone of services and supports in this country and are the first line of assistance for most people. Each caregiver helps make it possible for older adults and people with disabilities to live independently in their homes and communities,” said Harper. “Respite is one of the most frequently requested support services among family caregivers; however, the vast majority of family caregivers still go without it. With access to respite services, family caregivers are given the opportunity to recharge as they continue to face the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of caregiving.”

The 43 million family caregivers in the United States provide an estimated $470 billion in uncompensated care, more than total Medicaid spending in 2013. Respite care helps keep those costs diverted from the overall health care system, decreasing the need for professional long-term care and preventing caregiver burnout. To date, 33 states – including Rhode Island – and the District of Columbia have received funding through the Lifespan Respite Care program.

“The ARCH National Respite Coalition applauds Reps. Langevin and Harper for championing respite for family caregivers. The announcement is especially timely during National Family Caregivers Month when we honor caregivers and celebrate Respite as the theme,” said Jill Kagan, director of the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. “Many caregivers experience great joy and satisfaction from their role, but it can be a lonely and stressful path. Respite provides the necessary fuel for the caregiving journey. Yet, the latest caregiver survey found that 85 percent of the nation’s 43 million family caregivers don’t use respite because it is out of reach or they just don’t know about it. State Lifespan Respite programs are paving a smoother road to respite by building coordinated statewide systems of accessible services. We pledge to work with Reps. Langevin and Harper to ensure that Lifespan Respite becomes reality in every state.”

“The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has witnessed firsthand how the Lifespan Respite Care Program has benefitted families affected by multiple sclerosis (MS),” said Bari Talente, Executive Vice President of Advocacy at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Family caregivers of people with MS provide, on average, 24 hours a week of support and while their role is invaluable, 64 percent of these caregivers report being emotionally drained and 32 percent experience depression. Since MS is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, the Lifespan Respite Care Program – which serves regardless of age – can often be the only available door to providing these caregivers quality respite. During National Family Caregivers Month, we particularly thank Representatives Langevin and Harper for raising awareness about needed family caregiver support and their continued leadership on this vital program.”