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AARP Advocates Brave the Weather, Push for Passage of 2019 Iowa CARE Act

Coalition Members

Despite the inclement weather outside, the Iowa State Capitol was turned into a sea of red vests and red hearts this morning as more than 60 AARP Iowa volunteer activists and a large coalition of healthcare advocates from across the state rallied for support of the 2019 Iowa CARE Act (SF 210/HF 340), a common-sense bill to help Iowa’s 317,000 family caregivers. The CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable) Act was passed earlier this month in the Senate Human Resources Committee and is awaiting the vote of the full Senate. The bill passed a House Subcommittee, led by Rep. Cecil Dolecheck (R-24) earlier today.

The 2019 Iowa CARE Act outlines 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; the designated family caregiver is notified when their loved one is to be discharged back home; the hospital discusses the caregivers’ abilities and limitations; and 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.

The 2019 Iowa CARE Act currently has no registered opposition, and is supported by more than 15 organizations across the state.

“We are grateful that so many groups have come together to support family caregivers, the true unsung heroes who provide the majority of long-term care in Iowa,” said AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson, who emceed this morning’s press conference. “There is a great desire to have these common-sense solutions in place and to bring the same protections to Iowans that so many other states across the country already have. The time is now to pass the Iowa CARE Act.”

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.

“I was thrust into the role of caregiver for my husband when he had a stroke at the age of 50,” said family caregiver Dorothy Pisarski of West Des Moines. “It was my expectation that the doctors would provide me with care instructions and demonstrations of how to best care for him in the home, and what I needed to do to ensure his health and safety during his recovery. Unfortunately, this did not occur, and I was left to essentially fend for myself. I support the CARE Act, because nobody should go through what I went through.”

Among the new groups supporting the CARE Act in 2019, is the Iota Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., who strives to be at the forefront of effective advocacy and social change that results in equality and equity for all citizens of the world.

"Iota Zeta Omega, as a chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., is placing emphasis on supporting caregivers as they take on the massive responsibility of caring for a loved one in need,” said Chapter President Ashley Stewart. “The CARE Act aligns with our chapter's goals by equipping caregivers with the tools and information they need to adequately take care of their ailing loved one and ensuring that caregivers are supported in that effort.”

Other groups in support of the CARE Act include 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, Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa, Easterseals Iowa, Epilepsy Foundation of Iowa, Iowa Commission of Asian Pacific Islander Affairs, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Older Iowans Legislature.

"Many in the Asian community opt to care for elders and other family members in a home setting in a culturally-appropriate manner," said Ben Jung, Chair of the Iowa Commission of Asian & Pacific Islanders (CAPI). "The CARE Act facilitates understanding and greater awareness of the scope of caregiving and responsibilities to be expected once the patient is home."

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 information on the 2019 Iowa CARE Act can be found at www.aarp.org/IACareAct2019.

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