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Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s first four months in Congress were especially grueling. She was elected as one of the freshman Democratic class presidents, became a whip for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and was placed on three committees. But more critically, her mother was ill and in and out of the hospital in New Mexico.
For a period of time, Lujan Grisham thought she might lose her.
As her mother’s primary caregiver, Lujan Grisham had to balance hospital stays and medications and coordination among family and friends, while tackling budget votes, new legislation and caucus work.
Thankfully, her mother’s health improved; she lives now with Lujan Grisham and her daughter in Albuquerque.
The lawmaker has long been committed to addressing issues of long-term care, and the recent experience with her mother seems to have deepened that view. She helped appoint members to the federal Commission on Long-Term Care that was created in January and plans to introduce legislation later this year to chip away at long-term-care deficiencies. Her previous political experience includes a year on the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners and running state-level departments.Long-Term Commitment
Long-term care, both policies and the work itself, consumed much of Lujan Grisham’s life before Congress — including an undercover sting, time as a caregiver for friends and family, consulting work and running her state’s health and aging departments.
Lujan Grisham says she’s fortunate. “Not only am I knowledgeable and have a good friend base who can pitch in when I need them, and daughters, but I can afford to pay the people,” she said. “What about those families who have none of those things?”
By 2020, about 12 million Americans will need some form of long-term care. Few plan for the financial burdens and fewer opt for oft-complicated health care plans as a safety net. There’s no national strategy for long-term care and even if there were, it’s a complex web.
The issue touches the elderly, the disabled and those with physical or mental ailments.
“I think we ought to provide much more dignity and respect to individuals who need some care and assistance, whether they are chronically ill or disabled or seniors, it’s the right thing for this country to do,” she told CQ Roll Call in a recent interview. “If we don’t do it, we’re going to spend a whole lot more money and health care outcomes will be worse.”
Lujan Grisham wants more access to in-home services, a stronger career link and, as a member of the Budget Committee, to help drive the debate on funding.Going Undercover