CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that offers new support for family caregivers. House Bill 6706 provides caregivers with additional support services such as information about service options, counseling, training and respite care.
“This bill supports families, the greatest strength in our great state,” Blagojevich said. “By supporting family caregivers to provide care in their homes, it offers respect for the past, support in the present and hope for the future.”
The new law, sponsored by Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Arlington Heights) and Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), will help rebalance the long-term-care system that has been tilted in favor of institutionalization, even though the state Department on Aging has reported that most older and disabled people prefer to remain in their homes.
The services included in HB 6706 will go to family members who care for frail elderly people and to grandparents raising grandchildren. An example of this kind of family is Theresa Nagel, 72, of Berwyn, who has been a caregiver to her mother and her husband.
“There is a strain - yes,” Nagel said. “Caregiving for elderly people is more challenging than raising my four children, and the task is harder because I am older now. I would like to feel the support of other people in my situation, and I would like to learn about respite care that is available.”
Information is one of the most important parts of the support services, according to Charles D. Johnson, director of the Department on Aging.
“The stress of caregiving is particularly hard on older caregivers and often results in premature or unnecessary institutionalization,” Johnson said. “This new law will help caregivers by informing them of available support services, the options for care and – perhaps most important, it will offer counseling and support to reassure them that they are not alone.”
The Department on Aging will implement the program established in HB 6706 through current federal funding through the Older Americans Act and state funding for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.
The increased support will help more than 1.6 million caregivers and 103,731 grandparents raising grandchildren in Illinois.
HB 6706 becomes effective July 1, 2004.