Washington, D.C.— Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Gregg Harper (R-MS), co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, today introduced the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2017, which would reauthorize the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006 in order to support coordinated respite services for family caregivers. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Aging and a member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), joined Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who is also a member of HELP, to introduce the companion bill in the Senate.

“Access to respite services eases the burden on families caring for a loved one with a chronic or disabling condition, improves caregiver health, and promotes family stability,” said Congressman Langevin, the lead Democratic sponsor of the 2006 law. “Helping families that perform the rewarding but demanding tasks of caregiving empowers more people to live at home where they are most comfortable and avoids more costly out-of-home placements. As the only federal program that increases access to, and affordability of, respite care regardless of age or disability, Lifespan Respite Care is an essential lifeline for family caregivers across the country.”

“Family caregivers are the backbone of services and supports in this country and are the first line of assistance for most people. Each caregiver helps make it possible for older adults and people with disabilities to live independently in their homes and communities,” said Congressman Harper. “Respite is one of the most frequently requested support services among family caregivers; however, the vast majority of family caregivers still go without it. With access to respite services, family caregivers are given the opportunity to recharge as they continue to face the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of caregiving.”

“Family caregivers are an invaluable resource to our society, devoting enormous time and attention and making tremendous personal and financial sacrifices to care for their loved ones. This task, however, can take a toll. Caregivers experience higher rates of acute and chronic health conditions, and far too many caregivers don’t receive the support they need in their caregiving role,” said Senator Collins. “That is why respite care, which provides caregivers with a temporary break from their responsibilities, is so essential. Our legislation would give family caregivers and their loved ones the support they need by ensuring that quality respite is available and accessible.”

“Every day, family caregivers in Wisconsin and across our country tend to the needs of their loved ones,” said Senator Baldwin. “Although this work can be very rewarding, it can also be emotionally and physically challenging. This legislation will help ensure continued funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Program so that our family caregivers can access the support and relief they need.”

“The ARCH National Respite Coalition applauds Congressmen Langevin and Harper and Senators Collins and Baldwin for championing respite for family caregivers by introducing the reauthorization of the Lifespan Respite Care Act,” said Jill Kagan, director of the ARCH National Respite Coalition. “Many caregivers experience satisfaction from their caregiving roles, but without adequate support, such as respite, the caregiver journey can be isolating and stressful and lead to poor health outcomes. State Lifespan Respite programs have helped pave a smoother road to respite by building coordinated statewide systems of accessible services. We pledge to work with Congress to make Lifespan Respite available in every state.”

Respite care provides temporary relief for family members engaged in the full-time task of caring for their aging or disabled loved ones with special needs. There are 43 million family caregivers in the United States that provide an estimated $470 billion in uncompensated care, more than all of Medicaid spending in Fiscal Year 2013. Respite care helps keep those costs diverted from the overall health care system, decreasing the need for professional long-term care and preventing caregiver burnout. To date, 35 states – including Rhode Island – and the District of Columbia have received funding through the Lifespan Respite Care program. The legislation would authorize $15 million per year in funding for the program over the next five years.