CARE Act gives hand up to family caregivers

MIKE TUCKER Courtesy of AARP Washington

Last Spring, Susan Day’s husband Edward spent more than a month in the hospital — half of which was spent in intensive care including five stressful days when he wasn’t expected to live. Thankfully he pulled through, but the struggle wasn’t over.

During Edward’s final week in the hospital, Susan asked repeatedly for both time and training on the procedures she would need to perform once she got her husband home including injections, wound care and managing multiple medications. She knew it would be a challenge given their Shelton home was more than a 2-hour drive from his doctors in Seattle. As it turned out though, Susan says “Edward’s discharge was chaotic, inadequate, and poorly timed for everyone.”

“We learned a lot through trial-by-fire,” says Susan. “Fortunately Edward has a tough character, but the lack of information and training led to huge amounts of unnecessary stress and grief.”

Susan is not alone. She is just one of more than 1.2 million family caregivers across Washington who work tirelessly caring for older parents, spouses, friends, or other loved ones so that they can continue living independently, with dignity, at home — where they want to be.

With the vast majority of older Washington residents wanting to remain in their homes and communities as they age, the contribution of family caregivers cannot be overlooked. This silent army is the backbone of elder care in our state, providing unpaid care valued at about $10 billion annually. Without the help of family caregivers, too many of our seniors would end up in costly institutions — often paid for by the state, through Medicaid.

Today, family caregiving is now a common family dynamic. If you’re not a caregiver now, you were one in the past, or will likely become one in the future.

That’s why AARP is advocating for Senate Bill 6327 known as The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act to help family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital — and as they return home. The CARE Act will give family caregivers the support they need by: requiring hospitals to record the name of the caregiver when their loved one is admitted; notify the caregiver when their loved one is to be moved or discharged; and instruct the caregiver on the medical tasks they will need to perform at home.

More than 80 percent of Washington voters are supportive of the CARE Act, according to a new AARP survey. In fact, nearly all respondents (94 percent) say they strongly support the requirement of explanation and live instruction of medical tasks that should be performed by caregivers. The survey found sweeping support for the legislation across political party lines and ideological leanings.

AARP urges you to contact your state legislator and ask him or her to support family caregivers by passing SB 6327.

Mike Tucker of Lacey is volunteer state president for AARP Washington, representing more than 945,000 AARP members in the state.