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In Brief: Helping the Helpers: State-Supported Services for Family Caregivers

This In Brief summarizes the findings and implications of the AARP Public Policy Institute Issue Paper, Helping the Helpers: State-Supported Services for Family Caregivers. Family caregivers are the backbone of the nation's long-term care system, providing the support and assistance that enables millions of older Americans to remain in their homes despite a need for help with everyday activities.

To sustain the efforts of family caregivers, states have developed a range of services that include specialized information and referral, family consultation, care management, support groups, education and training, and respite. Two 1999 national surveys of state caregiver supports have identified strategies that states have adopted to reach caregiver families and the programs the states have designed to meet caregiver needs. The surveys were conducted by the California Family Caregiver Alliance and the National Association of State Units on Aging.

Key Findings

Findings from the surveys include the following:

  • Most state caregiver support programs serve families caring for persons with functional impairments, cognitive impairments (especially Alzheimer's disease), or adults with developmental disabilities.
  • States typically fund single-purpose caregiver support programs with general revenues. However, most states also offer respite care as a specific service within a package of home and community-based care services that are funded by Medicaid or state general revenues.
  • Eligibility criteria vary across the states by diagnostic or functional level, age, or income. Most of the services intended primarily for the family caregiver have no income requirements, operating through a sliding fee scale or other cost-sharing mechanism.
  • State officials believe that the most beneficial aspects of their programs include flexibility of program services, broadened income eligibility to include middle-income families, and a focus on consumer-directed care. Problems reported include inadequate funding, limited scope of services, and lack of public awareness of services.
  • Innovative approaches to reaching caregivers include mobile day care centers, voucher programs, websites, and overnight and emergency respite services.

1.AARP Public Policy Institute Issue Paper #2000-07 (June 2000).

Prepared by Barbara Coleman,

June 2000

©2000 AARP
May be copied only for noncommercial purposes and with attribution; permission required for all other purposes.
Public Policy Institute, AARP, 601 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20049

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