Legislation would help Iowa’s 317,000 family caregivers

The Iowa Senate Human Resources Committee voted unanimously today to advance the 2019 Iowa CARE Act (SF 84) out of Committee and to the full Senate. The CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable) Act outlines commonsense steps to help Iowa’s more than 317,000 family caregivers when their loved one goes into the hospital and as they transition home.

Sponsored by Sen. Mark Segebart (R) of Vail, SF 84 features four important provisions. The name of the family caregiver is recorded when their loved one is admitted into a hospital, if a patient chooses to designate one. Second, the designated family caregiver is notified when their loved one is to be discharged back home. Third, the hospital discusses the caregivers’ abilities and limitations. Finally, the hospital discusses the patient’s care needs at home and provides an explanation of the medical tasks to be performed – such as medication management, injections and wound care.

SF 84 was first passed Tuesday in a Senate Subcommittee comprised of Sen. Segebart, Sen. Craig Johnson (R) of Independence and Sen. Amanda Ragan (D) of Mason City, ahead of the Human Resources Committee vote on Wednesday.

“We thank Chairperson Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Sen. Segebart, Sen. Johnson, Sen. Ragan and the entire Senate Human Resources Committee for moving the CARE Act forward,” said AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson. “Their leadership in recognizing the need for additional supports for family caregivers, who are the unsung heroes providing the majority of long-term care in Iowa, will have a lasting impact across the state.”

The 2019 Iowa CARE Act currently has no registered opposition, and is supported by more than a dozen organizations across the state, including AARP Iowa, Alzheimer’s Association: Greater Iowa Chapter, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Iowa, American Heart Association of Iowa, Association of Area Agencies on Aging, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Older Iowans Legislature.

“We are grateful to the Iowa Hospital Association and Iowa Nurses Association for working together with supporters of the CARE Act to improve the bill to better address the needs and concerns of providers and family caregivers when a loved one is admitted to and then discharged from the hospital,” added Anderson.

Iowa is one of only 13 states that do not have a law similar to the CARE Act in place for caregiving families. No federal laws, rules or regulations—including those for Medicare—define the steps hospitals must take so family caregivers are engaged in their loved ones’ care.

In late 2018, AARP released the results of a statewide caregiving survey of 800 registered voters age 40+ across Iowa, showing that more than 95 percent of current family caregivers in Iowa believe it is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important that they receive instruction on medical tasks they need to provide for their loved one at home upon being discharged from the hospital.

The survey results also showed that Iowans are overwhelmingly in support of the three main measures in the Iowa CARE Act. In response to questions about their support or opposition, the survey showed that 92% of respondents support requiring hospitals to explain and demonstrate medical tasks to caregivers; 91% support requiring hospitals to keep caregivers informed of major decisions, like transferring or discharging the patient; and 83% support requiring hospitals to give the patient the option to record the name of a caregiver in the medical records upon admission.

Across Iowa, family caregivers spend 295 million hours each year caring for loved ones—a contribution totaling about $3.8 billion in unpaid care. They carry out tasks like managing finances, providing transportation, helping with bathing and dressing, cooking meals and more.

More than 70 volunteer activists with AARP Iowa are expected to attend the organization’s 2019 Lobby Day at the State Capitol on Wednesday, February 20, to discuss the Iowa CARE Act and other statewide issues with their legislators. More information on the 2019 Iowa CARE Act can be found at www.aarp.org/IACareAct2019.