This month, PCG is launching a Fall 2023 Focus on Caregiving Series. Throughout the series, we will highlight the role of caregivers in our healthcare systems and policy considerations, including those related to respite and caregiving requirements. We start the series by providing information on a landmark step by the White House with the sharing of an Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers (the Executive Order), which was signed on April 18, 2023.
The Executive Order aimed at bolstering support for caregivers and expanding access to quality care across the states. This policy development provides innovative avenues for states to expand programs that aid caregivers providing child-care and/or long-term care for the elderly or disabled. With caregivers playing a vital role in our healthcare system, the Executive Order shows a commitment to their well-being and the well-being of those they care for. Below we summarize key aspects of the Executive Order, some of which the Health Policy News team’s policy experts will explore further as the Fall 2023 Focus on Caregiving Series continues.
Recognizing the Importance of Caregivers
The Executive Order acknowledges the contribution caregivers make to communities, often without receiving adequate support. The description of caregivers given in the Executive Order includes both paid caregivers, such as home health aides, as well as unpaid caregivers, including family members and the larger community supporting and providing care. Individuals who have physical or cognitive disabilities, chronic illnesses, or other conditions that require assistance depend on their caregivers daily. According to the 2020 Profile of Older Americans cited in the Executive Order, by 2060, there will be approximately twice as many adults over the age of 65 than in 2016, making investments in our caregivers today paramount.
To address the challenge of inadequate support for caregivers, the administration plans to prioritize caregivers’ needs and ensure they have the necessary resources. In doing so, caregivers will be empowered to continue providing the essential care that families, friends, neighbors rely on daily.
Expanding Respite Programs
Respite programs offer a crucial break for caregivers, enabling them to meet their own needs, recharge and reduce burnout. Per the National Academy of State Health Policy, respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers that can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center.
To improve assistance for family caregivers taking care of beneficiaries within federal health care programs, the Executive Order outlines opportunities to expand respite care programs through partnerships with community-based organizations, using resources from the Administration for Community Living and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. By investing in such programs, states can improve the overall well-being of caregivers, enhancing the quality of care provided to individuals in need and promoting access to respite information.
Boosting Workforce Development for Caregivers
To strengthen the caregiving workforce of home health aides, the Executive Order aims to bolster professional training and development opportunities for those caregivers, like continuing education through certifications. The certifications will enhance caregiver education and skills and promote career growth and recognition for this vital profession. By investing in caregiver training, states can ensure that caregivers have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide optimal care.
Collaboration and Coordination
The Executive Order emphasizes the need for collaboration across federal departments, agencies, and states to facilitate an integrated approach to care. From tribal communities to rural partners, there is a call for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide operational support for the provider networks. The administration emphasized the importance of coordination among various entities involved in caring for individuals, including healthcare providers, state agencies, and community organizations. By aligning efforts and breaking down silos, states can create a more streamlined and comprehensive care landscape for caregivers.
Addressing Disparities in Caregiving
The Executive Order also highlights areas to empower caregivers who often face additional challenges in accessing support. To rectify any disparities from income to gender, states can leverage policy opportunities recommended by the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to provide targeted assistance and equitable opportunities for all caregivers. By prioritizing the needs of underserved communities, like the veteran population and tribal communities, states can work towards eliminating healthcare disparities and ensuring that all caregivers receive the assistance they require.