Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Time to Give Thanks to MS Caregivers

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John F. Kennedy once said that "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." November is National Caregiver Month, a time of commemoration within the National MS Society. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, not only is this a time to honor the experiences of those who serve as caregivers but also a reminder that we must continue to relentlessly advocate on their behalf.

Advocacy efforts within the Society have centered on efforts to maximize work balance and accommodations for persons living with MS and their caregivers to permit caregivers the opportunity to care for love ones. Most individuals living with MS rely on some level of assistance from their caregiver to remain active and receive the care they need.

The current state Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) language covers only a narrow definition of family: parent, spouse, and child; however, this definition does not reflect the structure of many of today’s families and makes it difficult for some caregivers to take the leave they need to care for love ones. Fair and inclusive policies and law are needed to protect and support people with MS and their caregivers.

The National MS Society plan to work legislatively in North Carolina to honor the caregiver’s needs through the expansion of the definition of the Family in FMLA, because we know everyday that siblings are caring for each other….Thus we are actively working with coalition partners for paid sick days and expansion of the definition of family within the FMLA to cover caregivers not listed in the current definition. An expanded definition would include same-sex spouses, domestic partners, parent in laws, adult children, siblings, and grandparents. We also aim to work in coalition to pursue state caregiver tax credits.

Continue to follow NCActivisMS blog for state advocacy updates on FMLA definition expansion during the new legislative session starting in January 2011.
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