Maine and Wisconsin have a strong history of working together across party lines in the U.S. Senate. We have joined together to carry on this tradition on an issue that touches millions of families across our country — family caregiving.

At a time when America’s population is aging and the need for care and support is increasing, family caregivers are vital to our country’s long-term care system and our economy. Family caregivers in the U.S. provided 37 billion hours of care — worth an estimated $470 billion — to their parents, spouses, partners, and other adult loved ones in 2013, according to a report by AARP, “Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update.”

Many relatives or close friends with chronic, disabling, or serious health problems rely on family caregivers so they can remain where they want to be — in their homes. In 2013, about 40 million family caregivers helped another adult loved one carry out daily activities (such as bathing or dressing, preparing meals, administering medications, driving to doctor visits, and paying bills).

Despite this significant contribution, family caregivers usually don’t receive any training, education or support in their caregiving role. What’s more, while providing this needed care to their loved ones, most family caregivers are also struggling to juggle their own work schedules, other personal obligations, and financial needs. Many older caregivers also put their own health at risk, since caregivers experience high levels of stress and have a greater incidence of chronic conditions like heart disease and depression.

As the chairwoman of the Senate Aging Committee and the senator representing the oldest state in the nation by median age, Sen. Collins has not only heard the voices of so many struggling caregivers in Maine, but her family has experienced the obligations of caregiving firsthand. Sen. Baldwin has also recognized the challenges that come with caregiving, having been raised in a Wisconsin grandfamily and having served as a caregiver for her grandmother.

We have worked on a bipartisan solution to support family caregivers with the goal of ensuring that everyone has access to the care and assistance they need and deserve. Last year, we introduced RAISE Family Caregivers Act to create a national strategy and plan to help us leverage our existing resources to assist family caregivers.

If we are serious about ensuring that our older adults and loved ones with disabilities receive the highest quality care in their own homes, we must formally recognize and support family caregivers as an official member of the health care and long-term care team.

Our bipartisan legislation would do this by having federal agencies, family caregivers, older adults, and other experts worked together to create a national strategy on family caregivers, and plan for federal and local action to address areas such as financial security, training and supports, education and care coordination. No new funding is authorized, and the legislation would use existing funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The RAISE Family Caregivers Act has earned the support of over 50 national and state advocacy groups including the Alzheimer’s Association and AARP. With this support, we advanced our legislation in the Senate, where it passed with unanimous support. But our work is not done.

While our bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate, we need the House of Representatives to take action and move it forward. We hope that the House listens to the calls of support from the families they represent as we head into the holiday season. We hope to end this year than by passing this legislation and sending it to the President’s desk for his signature.

In so many instances, family caregivers put their own health, livelihoods and financial security at risk to tend to the needs of their loved ones, many of whom require full-time assistance and care. It is time that we help them meet this challenge.

Let’s continue working together to celebrate and support family caregivers who are making a difference in the lives of loved ones and families every day. Let’s get the job done for our families.

Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, are United States senators.


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