Law Enacted Offering Caregivers Some Relief

Before adjourning, the 109th Congress unanimously approved a bill that will provide a measure of relief for the millions of Americans currently providing unpaid care in their homes to the elderly or those with special needs. President Bush has signed the bill into law.

The Lifespan Respite Care Act (HR 3248) authorizes nearly $300 million in grants to states over the next five years to help families hire temporary help to relieve primary caregivers. Building on programs in states like North Carolina, the new federal law will provide respite services regardless of age, income level or condition severity.

Starting in 2007, the new federal law will give states money to provide respite care services for family caregivers caring for children or adults, to train and recruit respite care workers and volunteers, and to provide information to caregivers about available respite and support services. States will make proposals to the federal government on how to spend the money and will compete for grants, so every state's program will be somewhat different. No doubt demand will outstrip available services. Thousands of families are on a waiting list for North Carolina's current program.

"The new law . . . is part of a growing effort by the federal government to encourage home care as a way of saving money . . . " wrote The Wall Street Journal.

National Respite Coalition chairwoman Jill Kagan told SpecialNeedsAnswers: "For the first time, we have a federal law that focuses on what families say they most often need -- respite -- so that they can continue to provide care to their loved ones at home. But our work is not over. We have to work to make sure the program is fully funded and implemented the way Congress intended. For a relatively small investment, this program will have a huge impact on families and will save money."

Watch for news from your state on the development of programs.

To read the new law, go to, enter Bill Number "HR 3248" and then select version four, "Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate."

To read the article on the new law in The Wall Street Journal, click here (subscription required).

For an article on the need for respite care services in the Rochester, New York, area, click here. Article Last Modified: 12/27/2006