The Delaware Legislature passed Senate Bill 52 last night, the CARE Act, which provides more supports for unpaid family caregivers. The bill was heavily supported by a statewide coalition that included AARP, the Delaware Aging Network, Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter, Delaware Association of Home and Community Care, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Alumnae, and Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council, along with numerous other healthcare and social service agencies. Hospitals in the state gave their support of the bill after an amendment was introduced which gave immunity to healthcare providers.
CARE Act House Sponsor, Rep. David Bentz, was pleased with the bill's passage, saying, "At any given moment, 123,000 Delawareans are providing unpaid family caregiving for parents, spouses, friends, or neighbors. The CARE Act will make it possible for those receiving care to remain at home and recover successfully with the support of family and friends." In Delaware alone, unpaid care provided for loved ones is valued at $1.58 billion each year. Imagine the fiscal impact if these dedicated individuals were unable to provide care.
Senate Sponsor, Bethany Hall-Long, describes the benefits of the bill: "Part of making Delaware a healthier place is ensuring that services critical to patient care and recovery doesn't abruptly end when they're discharged from the hospital. This legislation lays out ways a family caregiver should be brought up to speed prior to assuming care, so their burden is minimized, the patient is protected, and the risk of hospital readmission is reduced. When we can increase the quality of care to Delawareans while reducing cost, we're making our state stronger and healthier."
Patients are leaving hospitals “quicker and sicker,” often performing complex medical tasks such as wound care or managing medication. The bill makes hospital discharge less stressful by giving patients the opportunity to identify a caregiver; and offering instruction / demonstration of the care needed once their loved one returns home.
That’s why AARP worked so hard with volunteers, legislators and other supporters to pass the CARE Act during this year’s legislative session. After several amendments were added, the bill passed the Senate with a vote of 20-1 and the House passed the bill with a vote of 33-0 with 8 absent. The bill sponsors were Senator Hall-Long (D), and Representatives Bentz (D) and Longhurst (D). Co-sponsors were Senators Poore (D), Bonini (R) and Representatives Baumbach (D), Heffernan (D), Jacques (D), and D. Short (R).
Senate Bill 52 was introduced at a Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing on May 18 following recommendations from Delaware’s Family Caregiving Task Force. AARP was a co-chair of the task force that was created with the passage of AARP model House Concurrent Resolution 57.
“We are thrilled that Senate Bill 52 has passed this legislative session,” said AARP State Director Lucretia Young. “AARP has been working for years on behalf of our members in Delaware to educate and inform on this issue. This is a major win for unpaid caregivers, and we thank our legislators for recognizing those who work tirelessly to provide care every day to loved ones. We also thank our 184,000 members in Delaware for their action and support.”
The Wilmington Senior Center was a key coalition partner in passing Senate Bill 52. Executive Director Sue Getman said, “My husband had a stroke seven years ago, and I struggled when he was discharged because the hospital provided me with very little information. It was a scary time for our family – if we’d been better prepared for him to come home, we all would have felt more confident providing his care. That’s why the bill had our support and we are thrilled to see it pass.”
Getman also urges Governor Markell to sign the bill into law quickly.
The passage of Senate Bill 52, the CARE Act, will make it possible for those receiving care to remain at home and recover successfully with the support of family and friends. Moving forward, AARP and its coalition of statewide partners will work to implement the CARE Act and continue to educate Delawareans on the issue of unpaid caregiving.