Caregiving, the ACA and Congregations

"A New Normal?" by Randy Heinitz, via (Creative Commons License)
"A New Normal?" by Randy Heinitz, via (Creative Commons License)

I recently returned from a very fulfilling weekend at another congregation. The two congregational weekends this month both included a series of discussions that touched on the very real issue of caregiving. When asked, an overwhelming majority of people responded that they are now, or have been in the last 5 years, caregivers. They knew first hand the stresses and strains–both physical, mental and spiritual–that this new life stage entails. Indeed, when we discuss this issue, we maintain that elder care issues are now replacing child care issues as the number one financial concern for many families–especially Boomers.
As we have written in this space before, this issue, and the debates over “repeal and replace” of the ACA. will form a major social justice concern for us and our families over the foreseeable future. Dr. David Khullar, in a recent piece entitled “Ways to Lighten the Toll of Taking Care of Ailing Relatives” (New York Times. January 24, 2017. p.A-3) noted a recent study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, which said that the current reliance on family caregivers may be “unsustainable”. We have seen this reported in a variety of places. “While the demand for caregivers is growing because of longer life expectancies and more complex medical care, the supply is shrinking, as a result of declining marriage rates, smaller family sizes and greater geographic separation. In 2015, there were seven potential family caregivers for every person over 80. By 2030, this ratio is expected to be 4 to 1 and by 2050 there will be fewer than three potential caregivers for every older American”.
We need to become educated in local resources that may be available. We constantly suggest to congregations that they have an annual Caregiving education forum that walks people through he Jewish sources and highlights local resources. Likewise, there is a gradual rise in legislation that looks at this issue. “More than 30 states have passed versions of the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act” This act “requires hospitals to identify family caregivers, inform them when patients are being discharged, and provide them with basic education ont he tasks they’ll be expected to perform.” It may be a good idea to check and see if your state has such an act (or location if you are outside of USA).
The implication for funding from government sources is now up for grabs as Congress will debate the ACA. We need to be vigilant as to the implications of what replaces the existing law. There seems to be the potential that those who are most vulnerable may suffer. A very interesting and informative chart detailing recent proposals from the administration on “repeal and replace” was recently printed in a New York Times piece. “Keep or Replace Obamacare? It Might Be Up to the States”. by Haeyoun Park (New York Times. January 25, 2017. page. A-14). The piece walks us through three options now being discussed. Again, this will be THE social justice issue for our generation. Stay tuned!
Rabbi Richard F Address

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