A Rough Ride for California’s Caregivers

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Editor's note: There is a petition against the proposed cuts to the California Caregiver Resource Centers. You can view and sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/dont-balance-californias-budget-on-the-backs-of-family-caregivers

Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed FY 2012-13 budget this week, which calls for eliminating funding for the California Caregiver Resource Centers (CRC). The language used in the budget document is fairly innocuous:

Elimination of Funding for Caregiver Resource Centers — A decrease of $2.9 million General Fund in 2012‑13 as a result of eliminating contract funding for Caregiver Resource Centers, which provide services to individuals with acquired brain disorders.

Unfortunately, family caregivers are dealing with diseases that are anything but harmless. Caregiving for a person with dementia, especially in the later stages, is one of the most stressful types of caregiving.

A recent brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research provides an alarming analysis of caregivers in California, and the emotional, psychological, and financial stresses they are placed under, including:

• More than 1 million caregivers report moderate or serious distress levels;

• Caregivers of all ages who reported serious psychological distress were 208% more likely to smoke than non-caregivers with serious psychological distress;

• 29% of middle-aged caregivers are single, divorced, or widowed;

• 67.1% of caregivers hold down full- or part-time jobs; and

• The 1/3 of California caregivers who live with their care recipients spend an average of 36 hours a week providing care.

The social workers at the 11 CRCs located throughout the state, assess caregivers, provide them emotional support, and connect caregivers to much-needed services like respite, legal counseling, support groups, and education.

In fact, the California State Department of Mental Health Website notes:

Fortunately, in California, there is help. Eleven Caregiver Resource Centers (CRCs), throughout the state serve thousands of families and caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease, stroke, Parkinson's disease and other disorders. California was the first state in the nation to establish a statewide network of support organizations for caregivers; every resident has access to a CRC in their area (see below for services).

The proposed elimination of funding for the CRCs would be on top of the recent reductions made to California’s Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) system. ADHC was originally scheduled to be eliminated, then funding was going to be reduced by 50%, then Governor Brown vetoed that legislation, and finally, in December, a settlement was reached that proposes to keep ADHC-like services for current clients who have the highest needs.

California is in a budget crisis, which has been made clear for the past several years.

However, California is also in a long-term care crisis and the proposal to eliminate the California Caregiver Resource Centers will only exacerbate this crisis. Each year, over 4 to 5 million family caregivers in California provide $47,000,000,000 in “free” care.

As Kathleen Kelly, Executive Director of FCA noted on a stakeholder call today, the $2.9 million (total) provided to the 11 centers provides both a match for federal Older Americas Act services at the local level and allows for the CRCs to operate a tested model of services supporting families. Currently there is no other source of funding to assess caregivers and provide training, education and support to those who are providing the vast majority of long term support and assistance. It is with this action that the state of California abdicates its responsibilities to informal caregivers across the state at a time when the national health policy direction is going towards re-balancing from institutions to community services.

The proposed elimination of the funding for the California Caregiver Resource Centers tells family caregivers that they are not worth an even minimal investment.

You can view and sign the petition against the elimination of funding for the California Caregiver Resource Centers here: http://www.change.org/petitions/dont-balance-californias-budget-on-the-backs-of-family-caregivers

Editor's note: See also:

Scan Foundation: Fact Sheet No. 23: California's Proposed 2012-13 Budget: Impact on California's Seniors and People with Disabilities

Family Caregivers: A Priority for Politicians?
"In California, we’ve had a front-row seat to watch how a state slowly dismantles its long-term care system..."

Will Community Supports for Family Caregivers Survive?
"Total dollar valuation of unpaid services family caregivers provide in state: $48 billion
Total dollar amount of state funds for family caregivers: $2.9 million
Total public investment per 4 million family caregivers in state: 72 cents
Total value of family caregivers to their families and society: priceless..."

Eliminating Adult Day Health Care in California
"Californians caring for a loved one are forced to put their lives on hold and this often means either quitting or reducing their employment. In fact, a recent study found that the average baby boomer aged 50 years old who quits work to serve as a caregiver will forgo, on average, $303,880 in wages, Social Security, and pension benefits..."

State Policy Recommendations for Caregivers
"I do understand the budget crisis facing states at this time. However, since resources are tight, it is all the more imperative that we integrate the largest long term care workforce in meaningful ways across health and social service systems..."


I admire all caregivers and most health care providers because of their love and dedication to their job.