Grassley Wins Two Awards for Service to Older Americans
Grassley received the Alzheimer's Association's Humanitarian Award at the group's annual Public Policy Forum. The award came for his "persistent leadership to improve the quality of life for persons with Alzheimer's disease and for all residents of our nation's nursing homes." The group said he has been "instrumental in raising awareness of the coming epidemic of Alzheimer's disease and in holding both providers and payers accountable for quality in long term care."
The American Dietetic Association gave Grassley its Public Policy Leadership Award for his support for nutrition and health issues. The Iowa Dietetic Association, which nominated Grassley, cited his Special Committee on Aging hearings on the benefits of exercise for older peopleand nutrition in long-term care facilities. The group also praised his co-sponsorship of the Medicare Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 1999 (S. 660).
"In short, he has brought nutrition to the forefront," the Iowa Dietetic Association said in its nomination letter.
Grassley said he was honored to receive recognition from two groups that work hard to provide high-quality health care for millions of Americans.
"Members of Congress are the ones who receive awards, but the shoe really should be on the other foot," Grassley said. "These two groups apply their elbow grease to improve the lives of older Americans in every community. I appreciate their diligence, their commitment and their results."
Thank you for your generous praise. It's a honor to receive your award and to meet with you today.Members of Congress are always the ones who receive the awards. As grateful as I am, the shoe really should be on the other foot.
You, the members of the Alzheimer's Association, deserve the highest recognition for your work. You serve your communities and our nation in countless ways. Many of you have direct experience caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease. You put in hours of emotionally exhausting and physically demanding caregiving. You bear expensive costs of medical care and supplies out of your pockets. You search for the best treatments and housing options for those in your care.
On top of all of this, you organize support groups in your cities and towns. You advocate the needs of your loved ones to state and federal elected officials. You develop policy positions and see your ideas through to reality.
Sometimes you do this when you aren't even old enough to drive. I understand that a young advocate, an eighth grader from Des Moines, is here. Cole Groff, thank you for your work.
To all of you, please know that your public policy efforts are welcome and effective. Because of you, Alzheimer's disease is well-known in every setting, from kitchen tables to the Oval Office.
Americans are well aware of what it means to have this disease, regardless of whether they have had direct experience with it. Members of Congress continually push legislative items that would ease the impact of Alzheimer's disease. I'd like to tell you about my legislative goals for Alzheimer's disease.
First, I support continued and adequate funding of Alzheimer's research at the National Institutes of Health. We must slow the progression in those who already have the disease. We must prevent the development of the disease in future generations, including 14 million baby boomers.
The importance of Alzheimer's research was reinforced for me two weeks ago. My Special Committee on Aging had a hearing about colon cancer. An estimated 56,600 Americans die from colon cancer each year, yet the disease is highly detectable and highly treatable when caught early. Ideally, the same characteristics should apply to Alzheimer's disease. Screenings and treatments for any disease come from research. There are no short-cuts.
Second, Senator Graham of Florida and I have just introduced a comprehensive long-term bill that would help victims of Alzheimer's and their families. Our bill is the Long-Term Care and Retirement Security Act of 2000.
It is the most comprehensive legislation to date designed to help Americans with long-term care needs. The consensus bill merges several proposals: my bill with Senator Graham to allow a deduction for long-term care expenses; a comprehensive long-term care expenses bill from Representative Nancy Johnson and Karen Thurman; and President Clinton's proposal to establish a $3,000 tax credit for long-term care.
The bill came about because we are the legislators who have been pushing for long-term care relief for years. We all agree on helping people with their long-term care expenses. We just differ in our approach. It makes sense to take everything we agree on and merge it into one comprehensive bill. The prospects for success are the strongest if we have a united front.
Right away, the package won the support of two major groups following long-term care legislation: the Health Insurance Association of America and the American Association of Retired Persons.
The legislation would help the millions of families who bear the shocking expenses of caring for an ailing family member. Many of those families are coping with Alzheimer's disease. I know of one caregiver's experience firsthand.
A state legislator from Ohio named Barbara Boyd testified before my Special Committee on Aging last year. Ms. Boyd cared at home for her mother who had Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer. Her mother had $20,000 in savings and a monthly Social Security check. That went quickly. Prescription drugs alone ran $400 a month. Antibiotics, ointments to prevent skin breakdown, incontinence supplies and other expenses cost hundreds of dollars a month.
Ms. Boyd exhausted her own savings to care for her mother, and exhausted herself. She isn't complaining. Family caregivers don't complain. But we can and should use the tax code to ease their burden. That's the goal of the consensus long-term care bill.
Under this legislation, Ms. Boyd's mother could have purchased long-term care insurance long before she developed Alzheimer's. Our tax deduction for long-term care insurance would have encouraged her to make that purchase.
In addition, Ms. Boyd could have used the tax credit to help with the costs of the medications and medical supplies for her mother. Of course, a $3,000 tax break wouldn't have covered everything, but it certainly would have helped. I don't think any family caregivers would turn it down.
My colleagues and I will work to get this bill passed as soon as possible. An aging nation has no time to waste in preparing for long-term care. Family caregivers need immediate relief from their expensive and exhausting work.
Third, but not last in order of importance, on my list is funding the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Earlier this month, I wrote to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and asked him to fund this program at $125 million.
As you may know, the National Family Caregiver Support Program would serve hundreds of communities nationwide. The program would work through local aging agencies under the Older Americans Act. It would provide respite care, information and assistance, caregiving counseling, training and peer support and supplemental services to caregivers and their families.
The proposal has bipartisan support but has not been approved because the Older Americans Act has not been re-authorized. I hope the appropriations process will be an effective vehicle. In the meantime, my bill to establish this program is pending. If the Older Americans Act is re-authorized, I'll push the National Family Caregiver Support Program that way. There are two viable options for making this program a reality.
I also wrote to Senator Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, urging increased funding for Title XX of the Social Security Act, the Social Services Block Grant.
The block grant includes services to the elderly including long-term care support services, home- and community-based services, meal support and nutrition, and adult protective services, as well as services for children and those with mental health needs. The block grant is funded at $1.7 billion this year. President Clinton proposes the same amount for next year. I'm asking for $2.38 billion.
It's important to act on two fronts. We should use existing resources to meet a pressing need. The family caregiver support proposal does this by adding services to a successful network of aging centers. We also have to fund good programs that serve older Americans at full levels. Peace of mind can come from access to quality services.
I hope all of these activities paint a positive picture of long-term care's future. There is greater recognition in Congress than ever before of the challenges facing our aging nation. More Americans know the phrase "family caregiving" than they did just three years ago, when I became chairman of the Special Committee on Aging.
Sure, our country is aging, and that demographic shift creates new needs, but we're meeting those needs. We're researching cures for Alzheimer's disease. We're making our older loved ones comfortable and secure. We're facing old age head on, embracing its blessings and addressing its headaches.
You, the members of the Alzheimer's Association, are in the thick of it all. Thank you again for all of your work to improve the lives of our aging citizens, and for recognizing me as your ally in your cause.