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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Gov. Tony Evers proclaims November Family Caregiver month brings awareness to demands of the role, paralleling U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis, proposed legislation promoting respite care. 

Increased state, federal attention on family caregiver deficit

Organizations and legislators band together to promote the importance of child caregivers’ roles across the state after Gov. Tony Evers declared November “Family Caregiver Month” in recognition of the current shortage.

Evers projected a necessary increase of 20,000 caregivers by 2026 in order to meet the needs of Wisconsin’s growing population. Citing 538 million hours of unpaid work each year, Evers called on the task force dedicated to creating recommendations to address the growing problem. 

“The state of Wisconsin is committed to expanding services that support the enhancement of caregiving throughout our state, and recognizes the innumerable contributions and sacrifices family caregivers have made in service to the health and well-being of friends and family members,” Evers’ proclamation read

A recent survey from the Wisconsin Family and Caregiver Support Alliance found 90 percent of caregivers for people with disabilities reported a decline in their physical or emotional health — and a quarter have quit their jobs because of the demands.

In response, the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations — who are represented in the task force — conducted their own survey with similar findings. 

“Survival’s own survey of people with disabilities shows that 95 percent of people with disabilities and their families had trouble finding caregivers, and 45 percent reported being unable to fill 7 or more shifts each month,” Survival co-Chair Beth Swedeen said.

Respite Care Association of Wisconsin launched a campaign for the month to promote the role of respite care in alleviating pressure — which happens when someone else steps in to take the responsibilities of a primary caregiver.

"The effects of round-the-clock caregiving often lead the caregiver to feel isolated, fatigued, depressed and anxious,” said Rachel Watkins-Petersen, project manager of RCAW. “The mental health toll on primary caregivers often exacerbates physical health conditions. Family caregivers must get connected with respite care.”

Supporting this initiative, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to advance a bill authorizing $10 million annually for the Lifespan Respite Care program. 

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and would run through the 2024 fiscal year. 

“Every day, family caregivers in Wisconsin and across our country tend to the needs of their loved ones,” Baldwin said. “Together, we’re going to help ensure continued funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Program so that our family caregivers can access the support and relief they need.”

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