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Big Win for Iowa's 317,000 Family Caregivers as 2019 Iowa CARE Act Passes House

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The Iowa House this morning passed the 2019 Iowa CARE Act (SF 210) by a vote of 96-3. With the bill unanimously passing the Iowa Senate earlier in the week, the legislation now moves to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. The CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable) Act outlines commonsense steps to help Iowa’s more than 317,000 family caregivers when their loved one goes into the hospital and as they transition home.

The CARE Act legislation was sponsored and floor managed in the House by Rep. Cecil Dolecheck (R) of Mount Ayr and in the Senate by Sen. Mark Segebart (R) of Vail.

“Today is a great day for family caregivers across Iowa, and we thank the Iowa House who joins the Iowa Senate in passing this standard of assurance that Iowa family caregivers will be prepared to care for their loved ones in the home following hospitalization,” said AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson. “AARP Iowa thanks the many family caregivers who shared their personal stories with lawmakers, the large statewide coalition that rallied together to cast a wide net of support for the CARE Act, the Iowa Hospitals and Nurses Association for working out a compromise bill language, and the Iowa lawmakers who listened and acted.”

The 2019 Iowa CARE Act features 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; finally, 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 CARE Act has been supported by more than 15 organizations across the state, including 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, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Older Iowans Legislature, and the Iowa Family Leader.

With North Dakota passing their CARE Act on March 20 of this year, Iowa now becomes the 42nd state or U.S. territory to have enacted CARE Act type legislation 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.

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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