From Forbes McIntosh, Government Policy Solutions, WALA Lobbyist
In response to an identified lack of a statewide family caregiver strategy, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has convened a family caregiver strategy workgroup which plans to create a statewide brand/identity for caregiver services, improve community awareness on where caregivers can go for assistance or support and work toward eliminating the stigma of the term “caregiver.”
Lynn Gall of DHS updated the Wisconsin Long-Term Care Advisory Council at its meeting Tuesday in Madison about the workgroup’s effort. The workgroup so far has created a marketing plan, identified its target audience and the message it plans to convey to those target audiences on the subject of caregiving.
The workgroup is also looking at other caregiver awareness supports and awareness campaigns being offered by other organizations to avoid duplication or work for coordination. The workgroup hopes to have a draft written plan to share with the LTC Advisory Council in May.
Some advisory council members noted that many caregivers testified at Monday’s Family Care/IRIS 2.0 public hearing expressing concerns about the federal regulations relating to conflict-free case management and how it will affect them being able to provide paid caregiving to their children or relatives. However, this is a federal issue, unrelated to the proposed changes to the state Family Care and IRIS programs, it was noted at Tuesday’s meeting.
Maureen Ryan, a council member, said her office phones at the Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers have been lit up with calls from family caregivers who have questions about these changes, as well about federal rules relating to a 40-hour workweek for caregivers, with required overtime after 40 hours. Ryan suggested that DHS put out a Frequently Asked Questions document about some of these changes to help calm the panic – or have the appropriate DHS individuals attend the advisory council meetings to answer questions.
Cindy Ofstead of DHS said “the elephant in the room” is that the reworked advisory council charter limits the council to exploring topics related to dementia, workforce and independent living – and the DHS officials with information on other topics such as conflict free case management would not be assigned to attend the LTC Advisory Council meetings.
In other caregiver discussions, one advisory council member said the long-term care industry is facing a workforce crisis for paid caregivers. The industry cannot achieve its mission of service without an adequate workforce – which in the end has a direct correlation to what they are able to pay caregivers – and he said he fears it’s a crisis that’s here to stay unless the industry does something rather dramatic.
Ofstead said issues facing the paid caregiver sector have come up in the past as a potential topic to be explored by this advisory council. She said the current discussion focuses on family caregiver issues, but that she expects the paid workforce discussion to happen after the conclusion of the family caregiver discussions.
In other business, the council heard a report on the accomplishments of the DHS dementia care system redesign plan to date. The 2016 draft priorities for continuing work on this initiative include:
- Continue to promote dementia-friendly communities.
- Help increase dementia capability in tribal communities through training and technical assistance.
- Create and implement a caregiver support strategy (see above discussion).
- Expand the use of the dementia (“brain health”) curriculum in schools.
- Engage local health departments in dementia care planning and service coordination.
- Work with medical care providers across the state to increase dementia screening and diagnosis.
- Provide resources and technical assistance to the dementia care leads in the managed care organizations.
- Expand the Music and Memory program to assisted living communities, other facilities and in private residences.
- Adapt the Music and Memory program to be culturally appropriate for tribal families.
- Provide additional resources on dementia to Wisconsin Coalition for Collaborative Excellence through a Wisconsin Partnership Program grant.
- Partner with stakeholders to develop and distribute best practices in dementia-friendly facility design.
- Create and distribute a document on best practices in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.