November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize and say “thank you” to the millions of people in New York State and across the country who provide care and support to their loved ones so they can live with dignity in their homes and communities. In New York State, more than 4 million informal caregivers provide 2.6 billion hours of unpaid care each year at an economic value of $32 billon.
Caregivers help their loved ones remain independent and live meaningful lives by providing vital assistance with a wide range of needs, including personal, financial, medical, emotional, and social supports. The responsibility of serving and supporting another person brings fulfillment but can also be challenging—and the strength and compassion exhibited by caregivers is a labor of love.
“Caregivers are the backbone of our health and long-term care systems. They provide, with little fanfare, many tasks to help their loved one be successful in staying in their home and community of choice,” said Greg Olsen, Acting Director of the New York State Office for the Aging. “Caring for someone else brings joy but can also be stressful and exhausting. Fortunately, New York has many resources to support the valuable role caregivers play in their families and communities.”
Many caregivers do not self-identify as such and therefore do not access the benefits or services they may need or be eligible for. Caregivers often acknowledge their need for services like respite care and legal help, but often do not know that such services are available or how to obtain them. NY Connects can help. NY Connects (800-342-9871) is the statewide system for anyone who needs information on long-term services and supports, including supports for caregivers.
In addition, many people also put off planning for their later years until those years arrive, leaving many critical decisions to be made without the appropriate time, preparation, and information to plan or take advantage of preferences and options that can make aging more successful. The Elder Preparedness Self-Assessment Tool (TEPSAT) is a free, self-administered questionnaire that was developed by an elder law attorney as a fun way to test your level of preparedness and to learn about various topics and resources that are important to everyone during the later years. It also provides an easy and enjoyable way to involve family members in discussions around topics that may be difficult or awkward to talk about in other circumstances.
Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s leadership, investments in supports and services for caregivers have been unprecedented. Governor Cuomo’s vision to advance a Health Across All Policies approach and embed healthy aging into all aspects of government work supports the critical role of caregivers. Through the Governor’s efforts, in 2017, New York State was designated the first age-friendly state in the nation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and AARP. The Governor’s 2018 State of the State proposal to launch a Long Term Care Planning Project (LTCPP) to map out a 10-year plan to meet the emerging needs of New York’s aging population will further address caregiver issues, and Executive Order #190, which incorporates age-friendly concepts and healthy aging into government planning and procurement will have a positive impact on caregivers of all ages and populations. In addition:
- In 2017, the New York State Office for the Aging created the nation’s first statewide mobile app to connect more than 4.3 million older adults and caregivers with easily accessible material about benefits, programs, and services, including information regarding health and wellness, housing, and transportation options;
- New York State has led a multi-strategy approach to assisting families and caregivers by supporting respite through expansion of the Respite Education and Support Tools (REST) program. The state has also provided more than $25 million dollars in funding toward care and support services for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and their caregivers, which partner with the county area agencies on aging;
- New York State received the 2017 REST Vision Award, which is given to the state that has trained the highest number of individuals or organizations to provide critical respite support for caregivers;
- Governor Cuomo signed into law the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which requires hospitals to allow patients to formally designate a caregiver and also educate and support caregivers to provide post-discharge care at home;
- New York’s Paid Family Leave benefit, which began January 1, 2018, is the longest and more comprehensive paid family leave in the nation; and
- $25 million in annual funding goes toward care and support services for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and their caregivers. This investment is helping to support family caregivers who are providing the lion’s share of supportive services in New York; reducing preventable emergency department visits and hospitalizations; and delaying or eliminating the need for institutional care.
About the New York State Office for the Aging and Health Across All Policies/Age-Friendly New York
New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) continuously works to help New York State’s 4.3 million older adults be as independent as possible for as long as possible through advocacy, development and delivery of person-centered, consumer-oriented, and cost-effective policies, programs, and services that support and empower older adults and their families, in partnership with the network of public and private organizations that serve them.
New York is nationally recognized for being the first age-friendly state in the nation. Using the state’s Prevention Agenda as the overarching framework, in 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched a Health Across All Policies approach, where public and private partners work together to positively impact population health by marrying health care, preventive health, and community-design, in concert with addressing social determinants of health, to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, young and old.
Stay connected—download the NYSOFA mobile app for iOS or Android; visit the NYSOFA Facebook page; follow @NYSAGING on Twitter; or visit The Office of the Aging Website.