Florida Senator Bill Nelson Offers Thanksgiving Message to Family Caregivers; Co-Authors Op-Ed on the Importance of Long-Term Caregivers for the Future of Healthcare

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Aging, recently offered a Thanksgiving Message to family caregivers around the country, recognizing their importance and the often-overlooked work they do. Senator Nelson also coauthored an op/ed with his colleague, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) on the need for the Senate to address the challenges to, and increasing demand for, long-term care.

HCAF applauds Senator Nelson’s advocacy on behalf of these important issues. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Sen. Nelson in order to assist him with making policies that will help seniors age in place through home and community-based services.

Senator Nelson’s full remarks for the record – including the text of his op/ed – are included below:

Mr. NELSON. Mr. President, with the Thanksgiving holiday, November is a time for many of us to enjoy time with our loved ones and reflect on our futures together. With so many family gatherings, many retirement experts also encourage us to use this time to talk with family about our long-term needs.

In addition to thinking about financial needs for retirement, it is important to also address our health as we age. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, an individual turning 65 today has almost a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care in the future, and 1 in 5 will need long-term care for more than 5 years. Conversations about long-term care and advance care planning can be understandably difficult, but they are necessary to ensure our loved ones receive the care they want if they are no longer able to speak for themselves.

Thinking about long-term care means recognizing the invaluable—but too often unrecognized—contributions made daily by family caregivers. Over 65 million Americans provide $450 billion worth of unpaid care every year, twice as much as homecare and nursing home services combined, and these numbers are increasing. More than one-half of family caregivers perform intensive activities such as bathing, feeding, and medication management. However, these services often come with a cost to the caregiver, such as financial burdens and a toll on physical and mental health.

As the chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, I want to help middleclass families struggling to provide necessary care for their loved ones. This year, the committee has examined the importance of advance care planning as well as why a majority of Americans have done little to no planning for future long-term care needs.

Next month, we will continue this series of hearings by looking at expert recommendations for reforming our long-term care system. Lastly, Senator BALDWIN and I penned a column in recognition of the critical need to address the long-term care inadequacies in this country, and I ask unanimous consent that a copy be printed in the RECORD following my remarks.

I urge my colleagues to join me in this effort. As our Nation continues to grow older, this problem will continue to grow worse, and the current system must change to meet these needs.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

[From The Hill, Oct. 29, 2013]

(By Sens. Bill Nelson and Tammy Baldwin)

As Congress embarks on a new venture to create a bipartisan budget that would strengthen the economic security of families and reduce the deficit without shortchanging our future, it’s our hope that both parties will also work together to find viable ways to help families pay for long-term care.

With the aging of the baby boomers, our country finds itself in the midst of one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in our history. And, as the aging population grows, so too will the long-term-care needs of many in our society.

Providing assistance to family members who can no longer care for themselves can be taxing for all involved.

In fact, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing last month to examine a myriad of challenges facing seniors today, and found many were unprepared.

So, later this year, we’re going to hold another hearing to see what we can do to help. Some of the things we’re going to look at include the possibility of expanding Medicare to cover long-term care, and other various ways to possibly make private long-term care coverage more affordable for those who need it.

Currently, about 12 million Americans have long-term-care needs—a number that’s rising rapidly. While most receive care from family and friends, an increasing number depend on costly in-home care or end up in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, where the median annual costs range from $40,000 to $80,000, respectively.

Most middle-class families in this country simply can’t afford the expense of providing long-term care for a loved one. And there are few viable options available to help them pay for the services they would need. Medicare and most traditional health insurance plans don’t cover long-term-care expenses. And while private long-term-care insurance is available, most people don’t have it because they see long-term care as something they’ll never need.

In fact, according to a recent study from the SCAN Foundation, most Americans have done little or nothing to prepare for their future long-term-care needs. This is despite research that shows that 70 percent of people 65 or older will eventually need some form of assistance.

Clearly, our current system of providing long-term care is unsustainable. And, that’s why we shouldn’t wait much longer to address it.



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