Albany -- Thousands of Georgians are faced with a big responsibility - taking care of their loved ones.
Whether it's an aging parent, a disabled child, or a grandparent taking custody or their grandchild, the responsibility can often take a toll.
Dozens of caregivers from across Southwest Georgia enjoyed breakfast Saturday morning with local state leaders. It was an opportunity to share coffee while learning first hand about the upcoming 2008 legislative session.
"There are thousands, literally, that are taking care of disabled children, disabled adults, seniors who are frail or are chronically ill, or children that are not being cared for by their parent," said Nancy Harper.
Harper is the Family Caregiver Program Coordinator with the SOWEGA Council on Aging, the organization that sponsored the meeting. She sees this as a great opportunity for informal and professional caregivers to, "come and talk with legislators about legislative issues or potential ones that might be coming in the near future, and to hear from the caregiver's perspective about how legislation might affect us."
In Georgia there are an estimated 800,000 informal caregivers providing 834 million caregiving hours per year. With several legislative proposals on the agenda concerning caregivers, funding appears to be the greatest challenge.
"As we move into the budget process for next year we're always going to try find the money to give to those programs that have the greatest need," said Sen. John Bulloch, (R) Thomas County.
One of the legislative issues discussed Saturday concerned House Bill 188, which is sponsored by Rep. Ed Rynders.
The bill would provide exemption from jury duty for a primary caregiver of a person 6 years of age and older with physical or cognitive limitation, given appropriate verification.
"It's very, very important. What we have to do is make sure the language is correct so that we don't have unintended consequences and non-family members take advantage of the law," said Rynders, (R) Lee County.
Another caregiver issue discussed concerned grandparents.
In Georgia over 92,000 grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Currently 7.6% of children under the age of 18 are raised by their grandparents in the state.
Senate Bill 88 is designed to confer authority to the grandparent caregivers while providing limited financial support.
"It's nothing but right that the caregiver, whoever that is to participate in the programs that the state funds," said Sen. Bulloch.
And it is the funding that will likely give the bills the yeas or nays under the gold dome in the upcoming legislative session
Saturday morning's caregiver/legislator breakfast was held inside the Golden Corral in Albany.