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Department of Aging: New Law Expands Much-Needed Support for Caregivers Caring for Loved Ones or Others Living with an Illness or Disability

06/18/2021

Harrisburg, PAThe Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) announced a bill sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback and signed into law by Governor Wolf that will expand eligibility and allow flexibility in the administration of Pennsylvania's Caregiver Support Program (CSP). The program provides support to caregivers – including caregivers of older adults, grandparents raising grandchildren, and older caregivers of adults living with a disability – with the purpose of alleviating stress and promoting well-being to help sustain a healthy ongoing caregiving relationship.

House Bill 464 – now Act 20 of 2021 – was one of PDA's legislative priorities for the 2021-22 legislative session. Act 20 aligns the Family Caregiver Support Act with the federal National Family CSP of the Older Americans Act. The new law:

  • Clarifies eligibility criteria for program participants.
  • Removes a statutory spending limit on the cost of monthly care plans, allowing PDA to adjust those limits across the program, as necessary. This spending limit had not been increased since 1993.
  • Eliminates a $300 aggregate average requirement for all CSP care plans, which will allow Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) to build plans that are more customized and person-centered to the needs of each individual caregiver and better support them in their caregiving role.
  • Removes the program's $2,000 lifetime limit on home modification reimbursement, allowing PDA to adjust this limit as necessary. This change allows for better alignment with the costs associated with obtaining home modifications and assistive devices in present-day markets and is more beneficial to caregivers.

"Caregivers face a variety of challenges. With the many priorities that caregivers have to juggle, finding time to focus on their own needs and personal well-being often falls to the bottom of the list. The Caregiver Support Program can provide important services that can support them in their caregiving relationship," Secretary of Aging Robert Torres said. "On behalf of the department, I would like to thank Representative Boback for sponsoring this legislation and successfully navigating its passage, which will allow us to better meet the demands of unpaid caregivers."

Through the CSP, caregivers have the opportunity to receive vital supports and services such as care management, benefits counseling, caregiver education and training. Income-eligible caregivers may also receive financial reimbursement of approved, caregiving-related expenses, including respite and consumable supplies.

"I am grateful for the support of my House and Senate colleagues and a signature from the governor on my bill to update the Family Caregiver Support Act," said Rep. Boback. "This new law, which will go into effect on August 10, is not only important to caregivers and their families in my district, but all of Pennsylvania. Expanding the protections provided under the Family Caregiver Support Act, and removing maximum reimbursement rates for out-of-pocket expenses, home modifications and assistive device expenses, is necessary. The enactment of this bill enables Pennsylvania to further assist those across the commonwealth who need it most, like our grandparents who have been tasked with raising their grandchildren."

Those eligible for the program also include Pennsylvanians of any age caring for someone with Alzheimer's Disease or other dementias. According to current PDA data, 26% of caregivers are providing care for someone with Alzheimer's Disease or other dementias.

"Now more than ever, we need aid to support the emotionally, physically and financially draining role of being a caregiver, especially for those caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias," said Kristina Fransel, Executive Director, Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter. "Enhancements made to the PA Caregiver Support Program through Act 20 will do just that by allowing more unpaid caregivers better access to respite services, higher reimbursements for caregiving supplies, home modifications and assistive devices and additional support and services offered through local AAAs."

Learn more about Pennsylvania's Caregiver Support Program here

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Jack Eilber, Aging: agingcomms@pa.gov

                              

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