AARP supports Alaskan caregiver legislation

There are more than 88,000 family caregivers in Alaska at any given time, and more than 128,000 over the course of a year, according to a 2014 report on Long Term Services and Supports done by AARP’s Public Policy Institute ( This number is growing along with Alaska’s rapidly increasing number of older people living in our state. These Alaskan caregivers (who might be a spouse, sibling, adult child or grandchild, or even a friend or neighbor) are not paid, but if they were, their worth would top a billion dollars each year.

As our state grapples with its shrinking revenue picture and cutbacks to state services, family caregivers are all the more important.

Family and friends are essential to coordinating care and helping their loved ones navigate the fragmented systems of services and support that may be available. And increasingly, family caregivers are even providing more complex medical and nursing tasks in the home after a hospitalization, such as wound care, mobility and transfer assistance, complicated medication regimens, and more.

Family caregivers play many roles as they juggle the many aspects of their lives – they are often still working full time, caring for their own families, providing care for their loved one, and trying to find some personal time to care for themselves. And, family caregivers are often unprepared and untrained in the tasks they will be asked to do. Many feel alone and isolated in their journey which leads to their own health, financial, and emotional concerns.

Budget requests

AARP Alaska is committed to finding ways to help people live independently and to stay in their home and community for as long as possible. There are some bills and budget requests before the Alaska Legislature this session that each might help a little. There are a couple of budget increment requests that would help in some small but meaningful ways. We support the $325,000 increase to the Family Caregiver Support Grant Program, and the $350,000 increase for the Senior In-Home Services grants.

Even with cutbacks in the state budget, these relatively small increases are actually investments in family caregivers that prevent much more costly state expense.

Home after hospital discharge

AARP is also proud to support Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel’s bill that will help guide patients and their family caregivers following discharge from the hospital. The bill will direct hospitals to provide demonstrated instruction to a named caregiver in the tasks they will have to perform at home after discharge.

This bill will also help hospitals avoid unnecessary or excessive re-admissions which often result in financial penalties.

Smoke-free workplaces

In addition to caregiver support, AARP also lends its support to Senate Bill 1, the bill to provide smoke-free workplaces statewide.

People in Anchorage, Juneau, Palmer, Bethel, and many other Alaskan communities already know how much better it is for everyone – including businesses – when they can breathe smoke-free air.

Some communities around the state do not have the authority to make that happen locally, which is why a statewide bill is necessary.

Sen. Pete Micciche, R-Kenai, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

Older Americans Act Reauthorization

Finally, and very importantly, we support the U.S. Senate in its bi-partisan bill S. 192 to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (which hasn’t been renewed since the current authorization expired in 2011). This act funds the many senior services so many people depend on….transportation, congregate and home delivered meals, elder justice, senior centers, etc. You can help by urging Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan to support and even sign on to co-sponsor the reauthorization. AARP will certainly be doing so on all behalf of Alaska’s nearly 90,000 members.

Ken Helander is the Director of Advocacy at AARP Alaska. He can be reached at or 907-762-3314.