United States

Durbin Proposal Would Give $200M in Caregiver Support

Taking care of a loved one, whether that be someone elderly or even young children can be incredibly stressful. But help could be on the way for the millions of Americans caregivers who take on the responsibility of caring for family members without much support.

For the last seven years Anabel Sustaita has been the primary care-giver for her 71-year-old year-old-mother Luz Rivera.

"She got sick," Sustaita said. "She wears a pacemaker and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)."

Taking care of her mother upwards of 20 hours a week takes a toll both on sustaita’s personal life and financially.

“it’s not easy," Sustaita said. "Because you have to go to whole other household and adjust to that household, then you gotta deal with your real life like I have a kid and a husband too."

Sustaita is just one of an estmated 34 million family caregivers in the United States taking care of elderly Americans.

"I do all the other stuff that I have to do for her like phone calls, pharmacy, order medicines or doctor appointments," she said.

Each year caregivers provide more than $470 billion dollars worth of unpaid care, spending an average of $7,000 of their own money to care for loved ones.

Joyce Gallagher is the executive director of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

"If you have a job, and you have a family and you’re caring for a loved one, it takes a lot of energy and time and resources to care for that person," she said.

Last week Sen. Dick Durbin introduced new legislation to provide an additional $200 million dollars in funding for caregiver support programs.

"Some just say I need a break," Durbin said. "Can I have two weeks where a visiting nurse comes in and I can actually take a vacation two weeks a year? These are the little things that are the big things in the lives of these caregivers."

The Supporting America’s Caregivers and Families Act aims to not only increase funding but provide additional training and support for home caregivers.

This provides much needed backing for caregivers like Sustaita.

"I hope it passes--the bill," Sustaita said. "That would be great. It would help more caregivers to help out with more elderly people."

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, also aims to strengthen the local agencies on aging and provide caregivers greater access to counseling and skills building.

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