Patients—not nurses—are the story when it comes to state legislative battles to modernize advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) scope of practice laws.
As National Nurses Week concludes, I want to take a moment and thank all nurses — past, present, and future — for all that you do. I know firsthand the importance of nurses not only to patients, but to their families. During the 15 years I cared for my parents, nurses made a huge difference in our lives. There’s no doubt, caregiving takes a team, and so often nurses were a part of my family’s team.
This month, Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska state legislature made a smart move to remove the barrier that had prevented nurse practitioners from providing complete primary care for their patients. By cutting through the red tape, these elected officials have made more primary care clinicians available for Nebraskans in a variety of settings such as at home and in the community, medical offices, businesses like Walgreens, Target and CVS, and some workplaces. Nineteen other states have similar laws in place.
This month, state legislatures throughout the nation are convening to mark the inauguration of new governors, state legislators and other state leaders. We will then begin to hear State of the State messages from governors that detail the challenges, opportunities and priorities they have defined for the year ahead.
My mom was born in the same year that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution — giving women the right to vote — was ratified. She was a daughter of immigrant parents, who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity. And my mom relished her right to vote. I have very early memories of walking with my mom, pop, brother and sister blocks to our polling place located at Outwater Park. It was a family tradition. I remember my pop telling family friends with a chuckle, “Every year, I cast my ballot for candidates, and my wife casts hers. We cancel each other out!” My parents didn’t have much in common when it came to political party loyalty — which made for some very interesting family dinner conversations, especially when it came to how the candidates would address important issues — but what they shared was a passion about exercising their right to vote.
As I drove from Billings, Mont., to Sheridan, Wyo., I saw a sign for "Buffalo 36 miles." Then it occurred to me that something felt strangely familiar. I grew up in a town called Lockport, about 29 miles from Buffalo, N.Y. So I researched a bit more. Sheridan has a population of 17,800; 20,000 live in Lockport. Sheridan gets about 72 inches of snow a year; Lockport posts a competitive 69 inches. And though my hometown doesn't have mountain ranges, it does share the same challenge — how to support family caregivers.
My pop, like many family caregivers, used his ingenuity to solve problems. This time, Pop was trying to figure out an easier way to help my mom out of her wheelchair and into bed. Pop was in his 90s, and anything would make it easier on him. So he rigged up a ramp from cinder blocks and particle board. If he could get her chair going at the right speed and right angle, he could run up the ramp and drop her in bed. No doubt Mom was a good sport and willing passenger.
As I cared for my parents, helping them to live independently at home as they aged, I learned to listen to the learnings of other family caregivers. Recently, I shared 5 Tips for Caregivers and asked others for their views on our @ AARPAdvocates Facebook page. The comments from fellow caregivers came flooding in. While I wish I could share them all, here are 10 tips from caregivers to caregivers:
My sister always says, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." I was reminded of this adage when I heard Loren Colman, Minnesota assistant commissioner of continuing care, explain how Minnesota is consistently ranked at the top of the nation when it comes to providing support for seniors and their family caregivers. " We planned," he said. Indeed, Minnesota developed a plan decades ago to transform the way the state would deliver long-term care services to older residents in their homes and communities, instead of costly nursing homes.
National Nurses Week comes to a close today, and I am reminded of my mom's nurse, Sue. As my parents got older and Pop became Mom's caregiver, they needed more help. Sue came once a week for the months following Mom's return home from a rehabilitation center. She checked on Mom's health and trained Pop on how to care for Mom during the week. I am still so grateful for Nurse Sue and all that she did. She was one of the reasons Mom and Pop were able to stay safe at home, where they wanted to be, and out of a costly institution like a nursing home.
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