DES MOINES, March 14, 2016 – AARP Iowa and other aging advocates including the Alzheimer’s Association, Older Iowans Legislature, and The Hale Group met at the Iowa State Capitol on Monday to urge the Iowa Legislature to take action to support the growing ranks of Iowa’s unpaid family caregivers during the 2016 session by passing the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act ( HSB 564 and SF 465) as part of one of the budget bills.
With the second legislative policy funnel now past, advocates point to the lack of proposals enacted or still under consideration this state legislative session aimed at improving the lives of older Iowans.
“Now is the time for our elected leaders to pass the CARE Act in recognition of the important role Iowa’s more than 317,000 unpaid family caregivers play in saving the state money and making it possible for their parents, spouses or other loved ones to live independently at home, where they need and want to be,” said Kent Sovern, state director of AARP Iowa, which represents more than 380,000 Iowans age 50 and older.
“Hard-working family caregivers are the 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 $3.9 billion annually. Without the help of family caregivers, many older Iowans would end up in costly institutions or back in the hospital for avoidable follow-up care,” Sovern said.
The CARE Act seeks to help family caregivers at critical transition points when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they return home through three important provisions: offering all adult patients the option to record the name of and involve a caregiver when they are admitted to a hospital; notification of the caregiver when their loved one is to be moved or discharged; and before discharge, discussion with and demonstration of medical tasks the caregiver will need to perform at home.
The CARE Act was introduced as HSB 564 in 2016, and as SF 465 in 2015. Like other good bills proposed by aging advocates, the CARE Act did not survive the funnel process as a stand-alone bill.
Carol Sipfle, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Iowa, said “Alzheimer’s caregivers face their own set of health risks because of the 24/7 nature of caregiving. Any education, information and support we provide to the 63,000 Iowans with dementia and the 134,000 caring for them is essential to improving the quality of their lives.”
John Hale, a family caregiver and advocate for older Iowans said, “Nowhere is the family caregiver’s need for help message more loud and clear than when a loved one is being discharged from the hospital with a host of needs that must be dealt with at home.”
Midge Slater, Older Iowans Legislature board member said, “Older Iowans Legislature (OIL) members overwhelmingly endorse provisions outlined in the Care Act to better prepare the hundreds of Iowa family caregivers who are on the front line for care of their precious loved ones.”
“Let me remind you that current federal requirements state that counsel and instruction on post-hospital care be provided to family members or the person responsible for such care on an ‘as needed’ basis as determined by the hospital,” she said. “Some Iowa hospitals are providing non-professional caregivers with such information and we thank them for doing so, but all of Iowa’s seniors deserve the best care possible so we think that all of Iowa's hospitals should be required to provide such instructions,” Slater said.
According to a 2015 AARP survey of 1,000 Iowa voters age 45+, more than 80 percent are supportive of CARE Act measures. Nearly all respondents (95 percent) say they strongly support the requirement of explanation and live instruction of medical tasks that should be performed by caregivers. Likewise, nearly all respondents (93 percent) support requiring hospitals to keep caregivers informed of major decisions, and 84 percent support requiring hospitals and care facilities to record caregiver information upon admission. This overwhelming support encompasses voters across political party lines and ideological leanings.
“Iowa family caregivers are the first line of defense against older Iowans being forced from their homes and into nursing homes and back into the hospital, but as our survey results show, more than half of the time, family caregivers do not get the help they need to provide care as safely and confidently as possible,” said Sovern. AARP’s survey finds that two-thirds (65 percent) of Iowa family caregivers assist their loved ones with complex medical tasks such as wound care and IVs and injections, yet half of current or past caregivers (50 percent) claim they did not receive instruction for the medical tasks they would be performing at home.
“As our Iowa state leaders are engaged in conversations on how best to reform and transform how our state provides health care, institutional care and services at home and in the community through Medicaid, people are looking for answers and specific proposals,” said Sovern. Common sense
“We are collectively urging our state leaders to reconsider their lack of action thus far on solutions to improve the lives of older Iowan before adjourning,” said Sovern. The CARE Act is supported by AARP Iowa, the Older Iowans Legislature, the Alzheimer’s Association (Greater Iowa Chapter), and The Hale Group. In addition, the CARE Act also has the support of the Iowa Primary Care Association, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Iowa, the American Heart Association of Iowa, American Cancer Society (Iowa Action Network) the Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the Iowa Caregivers Association, among other groups.
“Will be activating our organizations’ members to urge and remind leaders to act on behalf of Iowa caregivers and their families,” said Sovern. “The commonsense components of the CARE Act should be included in any proposal because Iowa family caregivers are already the cornerstone of our care system, and may be relied upon even more in a transformed system.”
Sovern said AARP will be communicating with and engaging its activists to urge for the CARE Act’s inclusion in one of the myriad of budget bills just beginning to make its way through the legislative process, starting with the Health and Human Services budget.
See news stories on this CARE Act press conference in the Des Moines Register, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Quad City Times, on Iowa Public Radio and on WHO-TV13.