The president has signed into law a bill that requires the federal government to develop a strategy to support the 40 million Americans who care for a loved one.

The measure — the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act — had passed the House late last year. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create an advisory council charged with making recommendations on the strategy to support family caregivers. The blueprint, which must be developed within 18 months, would address financial and workplace issues, respite care and other ways to support caregivers.

Every year, family caregivers provide about 37 billion hours of unpaid help for their loved ones. Caregivers often are responsible for managing a loved one’s medications and other health needs, as well as preparing meals and doing housework. Many provide this care while working full time and raising their own families. About 32 percent of family caregivers provide at least 21 hours of care a week.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system in America,” said Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer. “We need to make it easier for them to coordinate care for their loved ones, get information and resources and take a break so they can rest and recharge.”

LeaMond said that thanks to the efforts of the bipartisan bill’s champions — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) — “the RAISE Family Caregivers Act will help address the challenges family caregivers face.”