Every day, nearly half a million Arkansans perform a great labor of love by helping their parents and spouses remain at home. These unpaid family caregivers help their loved ones with medications, meals, bathing and dressing, chores and even complex medical tasks.
Arkansas with passage and signing into law of Act 1013 of 2015—the Arkansas Lay Caregiver Act—joined the growing ranks of states working to easing the transition from hospital to home for patients and their caregivers. Additionally, AARP continues to work toward raising awareness among caregivers and their loved ones about available resources, such as a November 17 Online Family Caregiving Fair (see below for more details).
Act 1013, which took effect July 22, 2015, lets every hospital patient designate a family caregiver. The hospital must take reasonable steps to notify the caregiver about discharge plans and to prepare the caregiver for the patient’s aftercare needs.
About 452,000 Arkansans provided uncompensated care worth an estimated economic value of $4.7 billion to their parents, spouses, and other adult loved ones in 2013, according to AARP Public Policy Institute’s Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update.
Many caregivers do it all while also working full- or part-time. Some are on call 24/7, and often they can’t even take a break. A news article published recently in Forbes analyzed 20 years of data and found that caregiving puts huge economic strain on Boomer women, forcing many women 50 plus to leave the workforce.
Act 1013 does four simple but important things— Designate; Notify, Consult and Demonstrate. The Act requires hospitals to:
- Provide each patient or the patient’s legal guardian the opportunity to designate a caregiver.
- Notify the patient’s caregiver of the patient’s discharge or transfer prior to the discharge or transfer.
- Consult with the designated caregiver to prepare the caregiver for the patient’s aftercare needs, including giving the caregiver the opportunity to ask questions.
- If necessary, demonstrate tasks to the caregiver necessary for aftercare
The Arkansas Caregiver Act also makes good fiscal sense. Medicare alone reports spending $17.8 billion a year nationally on patients whose return trips to the hospital could have been avoided. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has penalized hospitals for excessive readmissions.
AARP Arkansas Executive Council member Odessa Darrough appeared this week on both Today's THV/Channel 11 and KARK/Channel 4 to discuss both the Arkansas Caregiver Act and various caregiver resources, including those listed below.
- Connect, learn & recharge at AARP's Online Family Caregiving Fair, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Thursday, November 17. Ask actress Holly Robinson Peete and author Sherri Snelling a question about caregiving during our keynote webinar, connect with national organizations and browse caregiving resources – all without leaving home! Get details and register now.
- Find the tools and support you need—including two free new apps to help caregiver scheduling, record keeping and just staying organized--as well as ways to connect with other caregivers, at the AARP Caregiving Resource Center.
- Download the latest volume of AARP’s Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families
- Download the Arkansas Caregiver Resource Guide. An updated version of the Guide is scheduled for release by the end of 2016.
- Read stories shared by family caregivers in Arkansas and nationwide, or share your own caregiving story at I Heart Caregivers.