AARP Montana is fighting for commonsense solutions to support Montana’s unsung heroes

With the launch of the 2019 legislative session, AARP Montana is gearing up to fight for commonsense solutions to support Montana’s unsung heroes — family caregivers.

More than 118,000 Montanans care for older parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities or other loved ones, helping them to live independently in their homes and communities — exactly where they want to be.

AARP advocates for family caregivers — and the loved ones who count on them — on Capitol Hill and in the halls of the Montana state capitol in Helena. This year, AARP fought successfully to enact the federal bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, which creates a multidisciplinary task force to recommend how to provide better, more coordinated support for America’s family caregivers.

In Montana, the AARP state office worked to pass Montana Caregiver Act last session, which supports family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.

“Today, family caregiving is a common family dynamic. If you’re not a caregiver now, you were one in the past, or will likely become one in the future,” said Tim Summers, AARP Montana State Director.

Challenges Ahead

The unpaid assistance Montana’s family caregivers provide — valued at about $1.4 billion annually — ranges from bathing and dressing to transportation and complex medical tasks. They are the first line of assistance for older Montanans and people with disabilities, helping to delay and prevent more costly nursing home care and unnecessary hospitalizations, saving taxpayer dollars.

Family caregivers are the backbone of Montana’s care system, yet they continue to face physical, emotional and financial challenges as they care for loved ones. Most juggle caregiving duties while also working full- or part-time jobs. They also use on average about 20 percent of their own income, about $7,000 a year, on necessities like home modifications, assistive technology and adult day care. Some are still raising their own families.

Family caregivers will only face greater strains in the future as the number of potential family caregivers per loved one in need of assistance shrinks. In 2010, the caregiver support ratio was about seven potential caregivers for every person 80 or older. By 2030, this ratio is projected to decline sharply to 4 to 1; by 2050, less than 3 to 1.

AARP Guiding Principles

AARP’s guiding principles on advancing policies to support family caregivers include:

  • Helping family caregivers navigate financial challenges. This includes updating state guardianship laws and passing the Uniform Power of Attorney Act in states, as well as a modest tax credit for caregivers.
  • Protecting and increasing access to care at home and in the community.
  • Breaking down the barriers that prevent use of telehealth, including access to the technology that can help family caregivers manage their own or their loved one’s health.
  • Modernizing laws to allow nurse practitioners and all advanced practice registered nurses to provide the quality health care that patients and their family caregivers depend on. And allow nurses to delegate authority for certain tasks to trained home care professionals, as opposed to only family caregivers.
  • Expanding respite care services that allow family caregivers to take a hard-earned break.

“AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to support these unsung heroes which is why we are urging the Montana Legislature to support the 118,000 family caregivers across Montana. But we need your help – we need your stories.  Personal stories are powerful and can influence lawmakers and decision-makers on important issues. If you’re a family caregiver, I urge you to share your story—because together we can make an important difference in the lives of caregivers and those they love all across this state,” concluded Summers.

Caregivers are urged to share their personal stories here: