Kent Sovern, State Director, AARP Iowa

Kent Sovern, State Director, AARP Iowa

AARP Iowa today released findings of a statewide survey highlighting Iowa family caregiver experiences, challenges and needs.  The survey recognizes and supports the important role an estimated 540,000 Iowans play throughout the year as family caregivers. Their unpaid work and assistance makes it possible for their parents, spouses or other loved ones to live independently at home.

“Today in Iowa, a silent army of more than half a million unpaid family caregivers are the unheralded backbone of our state’s care system providing more than two-thirds of home care for older Iowans and adults with disabilities, valued at about $4.1 billion annually,” said Kent Sovern, State Director of AARP Iowa, which represents more than 380,000 Iowans age 50 and older.

“If you’re not a caregiver now, you were one in the past, or you’ll likely be one in the future,” added Sovern.  “This survey should be a wake-up call to Iowa leaders about Iowa family caregiver realities and challenges, and what our state needs to go to better support the challenges family caregivers face.”

The survey of 1,000 Iowa registered voters age 45 and older, “Caregiving in Iowa 2015: Opinions of Iowa Registered Voters Age 45 and Older on Support for The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act” shows that most Iowa registered voters age 45 and older have either had experience as family caregivers, or believe they are likely to be caregivers in the future, and they are strongly in favor of measures to help improve supports for family caregivers.

According to the survey, typical current family caregivers in Iowa are mostly women (64%) between the ages of 55 and 64 (42%). They are likely to be married (76%), are working full or part-time (54%), and earn less than $60,000 (54%). The average age of the person they are caring for is 78 years old.

“When it comes to modern family dynamics, caregiving is the norm, and while caregivers say they wouldn’t have it any other way, families incur physical, emotional and financial strains through this labor of love,” said Sovern.  “In short, Iowa family caregivers need help. That’s why AARP is working with Iowa lawmakers to pass The Iowa Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act, legislation that would include measures to help unpaid family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.”

The bill features three provisions:
1.Offering all Iowans the option to designate and record the name of a family caregiver upon admission into a hospital.
2.Informing and involving designated family caregivers in the process when the loved one they will be providing care for leaves the hospital.
3.Offering at the hospital, the opportunity for family caregivers to see live demonstrations and instructions on medical tasks the family caregiver may need to perform at home.

In response to questions about their support or opposition for the three provisions, the survey finds Iowans are overwhelmingly in support of the measures with 95% indicating their support for requiring hospitals to demonstrate medical tasks to caregivers; 93% support for requiring hospitals to keep caregivers informed of major decisions; and 84% support for requiring hospitals and care facilities to record caregiver information upon admission.

Of the Iowans surveyed who stated they were either current or past caregivers, 50% claimed they were not given demonstration of the medical tasks they would be performing at home.

This survey is part of AARP’s I Heart Caregivers campaign, which is designed to support, inform and advocate for family caregivers in Iowa and across the country. The survey was conducted by telephone between November 20 to 24, 2014, and has a margin of error of 3.2 percent. A full copy of the survey is posted here or is available by contacting the AARP Iowa State Office at 515.697.1003 or ia@aarp.org

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