Leisa Easom is the executive director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving and a registered nurse. This interview has been edited and condensed by The Hill staff.


QWhat is the mission of the Rosalynn Carter Institute?

EASOM: The Rosalynn Carter Institute establishes local, state, national and international partnerships committed to building quality, long-term home- and community-based services. We believe this begins with providing caregivers with effective supports and making investments that promote caregiver health, skills and resilience. We also believe strongly in the need to provide greater recognition and support for professional and family caregivers. Our focus includes supporting individuals and caregivers coping with chronic illness and disability across the lifespan.


Q: What is the biggest problem facing caregivers that policymakers should address?


EASOM: Policymakers should work to assure that caregivers receive evidence-based, culturally sensitive support services that target identified needs through community caregiver programs.


Q: Is there a specific piece of legislation or a regulation that you are pushing for?

EASOM: We are delighted that the RAISE [Family Caregivers] Act passed and hope to see this federal legislation carried out. We also are hopeful that every state will adopt the CARE Act. Respite programs for caregivers are also important.


Q: What are the most common misconceptions about caregivers?

EASOM: That caregivers recognize themselves as caregivers. Many caregivers do not self-identify as caregivers (feel they are just carrying out family responsibilities) and thus do not access or think to reach out for caregiver support programs, which have proven to decrease stress and burden. 


Q: How will the retiring baby boom generation affect the caregiving community?

EASOM: The main issue is the growing care gap.  With the retiring baby boomer generation, there will be increasing numbers to care for, but limited numbers to provide that care.


Q: What makes respite programs important for caregivers?

EASOM: Respite allows a caregiver a break or time away from the caregiving situation. I encourage caregivers to use respite time to do something for themselves that is enjoyable.


Q: What are some challenges that caregivers face in their daily lives? 

EASOM: Isolation, caregiver burden and stress.