Up to 25% of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) will require long-term care services at some point. A recent National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) survey of individuals supporting people living with MS shows that on average, caregivers spend 24 hours per week providing care. Caregivers enable people living with MS to remain at home and independent, and to avoid premature admission to more expensive institutional facilities. These are extremely positive benefits, but caregiving can be stressful and take its own toll. Sixty-four percent of caregivers surveyed were emotionally drained, 32% suffered from depression, 25% could not focus at work, and 22% have lost a job due to caregiving responsibilities. Sixty-six percent indicated that respite care—professional short-term help—would allow their care recipient to live at home longer.
The federal Lifespan Respite Care Program exists to better coordinate and deliver respite services to our nation’s more than 60 million family caregivers –including those caring for people with MS. Since the program’s start in 2006, it has been woefully underfunded. This year, Senators Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA), Olympia Snowe (ME), and Richard Blumenthal (CT) have circulated a bipartisan “Dear Colleague letter” on Capitol Hill to help ensure that the Lifespan Respite Care Program receives adequate funding in Fiscal Year 2013. Click here to send an email to your U.S. Senators and ask them to sign on to this important letter. We only have two days to gather signatures for this letter, so be sure to email your Senators today!