The people in the House and Senate are represent all of us whether you voted for the person in office or their opponent. They only hear from about 5% of their constituents. Admittedly, that is, almost double what was pre-email and is more than 200 million emails and letters a year! But that means that all of us complain about the job our elected officials are doing, while only a few of us actually share those complaints with the people in power.
I want to offer an opportunity for you to practice this communication.
(Aren’t I nice. And just to be fair, I’ll do it too.)
RAISE Family Caregivers ACT
The RAISE Family Caregivers Act (HR 3099/S 1719) has passed the Senate and has been sitting in committee in the House since November 2015.
(If you’d like a reminder of what this means – and just because it’s a classic and I love it – I direct you to Schoolhouse Rock.)
This is not a controversial bill. It’s sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans which is reason enough for celebration and applause. It doesn’t authorize new funding. It’s modeled on the National Alzheimer’s Project Act which, since it was enacted in 2012, has led to concrete actions to support people with Alzheimer’s Disease and their families.
The RAISE Family Caregivers Act creates an infrastructure through the Department of Health and Human Services to create and implement a strategy to support family caregivers defined as “a relative, partner, friend, or neighbor who has a significant relationship with, and who provides a broad range of assistance for, a person with a chronic or other health condition, disability, or functional limitation.”
Why is the RAISE Act important?
Informal caregivers provide about $450 billion in uncompensated long-term care and they make great personal sacrifices to do so in terms of income, career development, their own future ability to support their long-term care needs, and physical and emotional health. The RAISE Act would develop a national strategy to provide services, training, education, respite, financial security, and workplace policies to help support this important work.
You may be thinking, “What difference can my communication possibly make if I’ll be one of 200 million emails and letters?” Here’s one example of how individual voices have made a difference. If enough people speak up and say “Supporting informal caregivers matters!” stuff can happen.
Here are a few tips to help make your communication more effective:
- Send an individual communication rather than a canned email through a website (although those get tallied too).
- You can start with a pre-written letter, particularly if there are facts and figures you want to include, but then make it your own. Put it in your own words and voice.
- Give your name and address.
- Tell something about yourself and why you care.
- If you are a caregiver or someone who has received care from others, tell your story.
The more our representatives can tie an issue to real people, the more likely they are to pay attention.