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AARP Members Converge on Capitol to Demand Better Support for Iowa Family Caregivers, Call for Passage of SSB 1182

Anne Jochum of Bettendorf shares her caregiver story at Capitol News Conference on the CARE Act, SSB 1182.

DES MOINES, Feb. 25 – Today, AARP citizen advocates from around Iowa braved the winter weather to urge Iowa lawmakers to pass measures to help Iowa’s more than 540,000 family caregivers more confidently and safely care for their loved ones at home.

Recognizing the critical role unpaid family caregivers play providing more than two thirds of home and community based long term care services, AARP advocates urged the Iowa General Assembly to pass The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, SSB 1182, a bill to support family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital, and ensure they have an understanding and live demonstration of medical tasks they will need to perform once their loved one returns home.  SSB 1182 is scheduled for its first subcommittee hearing in the Iowa Senate tomorrow, February 26 at 1:00 pm.

“The AARP Iowa volunteers here today are the faces and stories of this issue, illustrating why the modest step solutions in this bill have such overwhelming support of Iowans,” Kent Sovern, State Director of AARP Iowa,  which represents more than 380,000 Iowans age 50 and older.

Sovern cited provisions of SSB 1182 and extremely high levels of support for those provisions identified in an AARP Iowa survey of 1,000 Iowa likely voters age 45+ released earlier this month.

The three provisions of SSB 1182 and levels of support are:
•Signifying upfront involvement of family caregivers by allowing Iowa hospital patients the option to designate and record a family caregiver in the record upon admission (84 percent support)
•Notifying caregivers when a patient is discharged from the hospital (93 percent support)
•Offering caregivers live demonstrations or instructions on medical tasks that may be required upon leaving the hospital (95 percent support)

“When a survey finds 84, 93, and 95 percent support for the core components of the proposal, that is more than support; that is a demand for action,” said Sovern. “You can understand why there is such a huge support when you consider that two-thirds (65 %) of Iowa’s many unpaid family caregivers are performing medical and nursing tasks, much higher than the average caregiver across the country.  Additionally, far too many Iowa family caregivers are providing care largely on their own when their family member gets home, as Iowa ranks nearly last in the country when it comes to access to home health and personal care aides."

"Iowans understand that family caregivers need the tools necessary to provide quality care not only for the benefit of the individual they are caring for, but also for the benefit of the caregiver and their own emotional wellbeing,” added Sovern, noting that the same survey showing strong support also found that of Iowans who now are or have served as caregivers and had a loved one hospitalized, 50% said they did not receive a live demonstration of medical tasks they needed to perform.

AARP Iowa advocates Martha Willits of Des Moines, Carolyn Warkentin of North Liberty, Arlene Field of Des Moines, and Anne Jochum of Bettendorf urged the General Assembly to move the CARE Act forward and shared their own family caregiver stories.

“As a former family caregiver for my mother, I was fortunate to have great instruction at the hospital on the tasks I needed to perform when we got home,” said Martha Willits, AARP Iowa State President. “That positive experience was critical in giving me the confidence and capability to care for my mom at home. Count me among the many Iowans who believe all Iowa family caregivers should have the opportunity for a similar important preparation.”

Contrasting Willits’ story of the positive, helpful instruction she received, several advocates shared their lack of instructions and consultation, mirroring the recent survey findings that discharge instruction and consultation is occurring less than half of the time for Iowa family caregivers.

Arlene Field of Des Moines shared her challenging experience, "My husband had lower back surgery a few years before he died, and when he left the hospital I received no instructions on how to handle the major wound care needs he was having when he got home."

“Iowans expect our leaders to better address the many challenges and current realities in our Iowa's long term care system.  With a Senate subcommittee scheduled on Thursday for SSB 1182, we are grateful to the Senators Jochum, Dotzler, and Chelgren who are examining this proposal supported by so many Iowans to help better prepare Iowans to care," concluded Sovern. "We are looking forward to working with all Iowa lawmakers and industry leaders to find a way to ensure that Iowa improves supports for family caregivers now and in the future.”

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