States Join National Initiative to Advance Strategies

Supporting Family Caregivers

November 29, 2018

Program:  The Health of Aging Populations

The Milbank Memorial Fund has joined several other foundations—including The John A. Hartford Foundation, the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation—to work on a national initiative to advance strategies in support of family caregivers. The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), which is implementing the initiative, announced earlier this month (which is National Caregivers Month) that five states—Alabama, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Virginia—had been selected to participate in a multi-state learning group aimed at enhancing programs to support family caregivers of older adults.

The number of Americans ages 65 and older is expected to double by 2060.  Providing caregivers with the skills they need to support family members will improve the lives of both older adults and the caregivers themselves.

“Families are being called upon to take care of loved ones, particularly those who are aging,” said Michelle Alletto, program officer at the Fund. “The initiative was started by the Fund’s Reforming States Group, which wanted to explore how states are responding to support these caregivers.”

Over the 18-month initiative, the participating state teams will receive technical assistance from CHCS and leading experts on developing strategies to support family caregivers. Types of activities that participating states may pursue include: 

  • Creating uniform policies to govern complicated networks of family caregivers and health and social service agencies, which often have competing guidelines.
  • Rethinking how to identify and track family caregivers, both to accurately measure community needs, and simplify patient/provider communication and medical decision-making.
  • Providing critical training opportunities to family caregivers on topics such as chronic disease, managing medication regimens, and how to access community resources.
  • Expanding access to respite and adult day care, services that allow caregivers to take a much-needed break from the 24/7 nature of caring for someone with complex medical needs, thereby reducing stress and preventing caregiver burnout.

The five state teams, which include staff from Medicaid as well as the governor’s office, Departments of Aging and Health and Human Services, state legislatures, and other local organizations, will participate in individual technical assistance calls, peer-to-peer “learning lab” webinars, and in-person meetings to learn from peers and other experts. An additional state participant will be added to the initiative in the future. CHCS will distill lessons from the states’ efforts, which will be shared broadly with stakeholders across the country.

Thomas C. Alexander, South Carolina State Senator and a Steering Committee member of the Reforming States Group, is part of the team from that state participating in the project. “South Carolina has a growing aging population,” said Alexander, “and I look forward to this project helping us improve the health of families across our state. By providing the support family members need with training and technical assistance, loved ones can stay at home where they want to be. I believe we have many of the components for this to be a success.”

The Fund will publish a report in early 2019 that highlights the work of five other states that have sought to strengthen their support for family caregivers.