August 8-14, 2016
The CARE Act
By Nan Selz
Executive Council, AARP Arkansas
Family Caregiving is an issue that affects almost everyone. Chances are that each person reading this column is either currently a family caregiver, has been a family caregiver, will be a family caregiver or will need the care of a family caregiver at some time. The statistics on Family Caregiving are dramatic. In 2015, about 43.5 million adults provided care at home for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly relative.
The last year for which the following statistics are available is 2013:
– In that year, caregivers provided approximately 37 billion hours of care.
– The estimated value of their unpaid service was $470 billion. This amount exceeded the value of the combined annual sales of Apple, IBM, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.
– One in four workers age 25 and over was a family caregiver.
– Caregivers spent an average of 18 hours per week providing care for a family member.
These numbers have surely increased substantially in the past three years and will continue to increase annually as our society ages.
Caregiving involves incredible challenges. The time commitment alone would be stressful, and 60 percent of family caregivers who are caring for an adult are employed full or part time. There is almost always a concomitant financial obligation that frequently overtaxes a family’s budget. And there is, of course, the emotional stress that comes from being responsible for another’s health and welfare – the health and welfare of someone you hold dear.
AARP is attempting to advance legislation and change policies to provide more support for family caregivers and their loved ones. Thanks to the volunteer advocates working with AARP Arkansas, the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act was enacted and went into effect in Arkansas on July 22, 2015. As of this writing, 31 other states and territories have enacted similar legislation.
The CARE Act helps family caregivers care for their loved one safely at home after a hospital stay. It requires hospitals to:
– Record the name of the family caregiver in the medical record of the family member.
– Inform the family caregiver when the patient is to be discharged.
– Provide the family caregiver with education and instruction about the medical tasks he or she will need to perform for the patient at home.
AARP is fighting to get the CARE Act adopted in even more states because supporting family caregivers is a top priority for all of us.
Other priorities of AARP’s caregiver support activity would provide caregivers with greater flexibility in the workplace, give them greater access to respite care services, help them find trained and screened home care providers, enable them to use telehealth technologies and provide tax credits to ease the financial burden of caregiving on middle and low income families.
As our population ages, the number of people needing care and, therefore, the number of family caregivers will continue to increase. Our communities, our state and our nation must continue to seek ways to support these families. Your own family will most probably be among them.