In preparing Mom’s medication, my 90-year-old Pop would fill a syringe using the light of the kitchen window to see if the dosage was correct. He set up the nebulizer on a table with handwritten step-by-step instructions to remind him how to operate it. Today, millions of family caregivers like Pop perform complex medical tasks that at one time would have been administered only by medical professionals.
21 states and counting
Two years ago, AARP proposed the idea of the CARE (Caregiver, Advise, Record and Enable) Act to support the 40 million family caregivers in America who are “home alone” with little to no training on how to care for their loved ones safely at home. Last Friday, Wyoming became the 20th state to enact a law that would:
- Record the name of the family caregiver at the time of hospital admission of their loved one
- Provide family caregivers with adequate notice prior to hospital discharge
- Provide a simple instruction of the medical tasks they will be performing when their loved one returns home.
Bottom line: The CARE Act helps family caregivers from the moment their loved ones go into the hospital to when they return home.
Like many of the wonderful legislative sponsors across the states, Rep. Elaine Harvey (R-Wyo.) was a family caregiver; she cared for four parents, two sisters and a great uncle. Last year when we met, Elaine told me and Tim Summers, AARP Wyoming state director, that it had been some time since she championed a personal piece of legislation, but the CARE Act was so important, she would introduce it. Not only did she keep her promise, but she made the bill stronger.
Family caregiving is already physically and emotionally draining without the stress of figuring out complicated medical tasks on your own.
We’re still fighting
AARP continues to fight for this commonsense, no-cost solution because too many family caregivers are without the basic support they need. Charity from Kansas recently shared:
“My grandmother suffered a stroke, several years ago. And, right now, I’m with her daily — helping her get up and dressed in the morning, and taking care of her needs until I go to work. If she goes back into the hospital, I want to know exactly what I need to do, to take care of her — when she comes home. I don’t want her to end up back in the hospital — or in a nursing home. And, the CARE Act would help prevent that from happening.”
Right now, legislatures are in the process of considering the CARE Act this session in the District of Columbia and 15 states: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. And, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the bill is awaiting Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s (I) signature.
If you’re a family caregiver, you’re not alone.
- To stay up to date or to get involved with AARP’s caregiving advocacy in the states, sign up for the AARP Advocates e-newsletter, visit aarp.org/SupportCaregivers or visit your state Web page.
- To share your family caregiving story, or read others’, visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.
- For tools and resources, visit aarp.org/caregiving.
Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.
Follow Elaine on Twitter: @RoamTheDomes