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New Legislation Aims to Help 'Sandwich Generation' Care for Relatives

A new piece of legislation aims to take a bite out of the burden placed on the “sandwich generation” – a group of adults usually in their 40s or 50s who are wedged between caring for their parents as well as their own children.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) held a hearing in June to learn just how challenging a position this is and to listen to policy suggestions to address the problem. The testimonies from this group as well as social service and healthcare professionals revealed the emotional and financial stress placed on them.

As a result, he introduced legislation recently that would help local organizations and establishments create a volunteer “Caregiver Corps.”

“The bill is focused on providing a limited amount of federal help so that organizations can be developed at the local level… that can help folks that are in the sandwich generation,” Casey said.

There are currently more than 32 million Americans 65 years or older who suffer from chronic conditions and 38 million of all ages who have one or more disabilities. But there are only 52 to 65 million informal caregivers and 800,000 home health aides according to Casey.

He said the legislation would enable groups and entities at the local level such as college campuses or even local or county governments to develop non-profit organizations to help fill this gap.

“We want to have volunteers that are not just committed, but well trained, well vetted and capable to provide direct help,” Casey said. “Sometimes that might mean being with an older citizen for a couple hours a day or even a couple hours a week so that that person’s son or daughter who might be there every day with them can get a break.”

Pennsylvania has nearly two million residents who are over the age of 65, which is the third highest percentage in the United States according to the Attorney General’s office.

Casey said the local organizations would conduct screenings and criminal history background checks as well as provide orientation and training.

“The good news is we have a lot of people that are willing to help, a lot of volunteers,” Casey said. “What we’ve got to try and do is to develop the kind of best practices that will lead to not just having volunteers available, but to have volunteers that are trained and prepared to provide the kind of help that a lot of families need.”

Casey said the legislation will most likely not be passed in this session, but he plans to continue pushing it in 2015.