After five years of working to pass legislation to support Iowa’s 317,000 family caregivers, volunteer advocates from AARP Iowa along with other partnering statewide organizations, celebrated their persistence and dedication on Tuesday when Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds inked her signature to the 2019 Iowa CARE Act, Senate File (SF) 210 at a bill-signing ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol. The legislation becomes law on July 1, 2019.
“Iowa’s family caregivers are unsung heroes who sacrifice time and energy to help their loved ones remain at home," said Gov. Reynolds. "The CARE Act helps ensure the tools and information needed to care for our most vulnerable Iowans are provided.”
The 2019 Iowa 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.
“AARP Iowa joins with the many groups who have supported this legislation in thanking Governor Reynolds for her ongoing public support, leadership, and now her signature on this important law,” said AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson.
The Iowa House and Senate passed SF 210 with overwhelming bipartisan support in late March, sending it to the Governor. The 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.
“This day has been a long-time coming for family caregivers across the state, who have pushed for a statewide standard to help ensure family caregivers are better prepared to care for loved ones in the home following hospitalization,” said AARP State Volunteer President Chuck Betts, who has been a family caregiver for his adult daughter for the past 50 years. “Being a caregiver can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do, especially when you have the knowledge and instruction you need to do the job well. The CARE Act will greatly help with that.”
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 was supported by more than 15 organizations across the state, including these groups on hand for the Governor’s bill signing ceremony: AARP Iowa, Older Iowans Legislature, Alzheimer’s Association: Greater Iowa Chapter, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Iowa, American Heart Association of Iowa, Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Commission on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs, Alpha Kappa Alpha/Iota Zeta Omega Chapter, the Iowa Family Leader, and the Iowa Caregivers Association. In total, more than 40 volunteers and staff from these organizations attended the signing.
“The Older Iowans’ Legislature thanks the Governor for signing this bipartisan legislation and making better supports for Iowa family caregivers a high priority,” said Older Iowans Legislature Member Monica McCarthy. “The over 317,000 Iowa family caregivers represent the majority of long-term care provided across Iowa.”
Iowa now becomes the 42nd state or U.S. territory to have enacted CARE Act type legislation for caregiving families, joining most recently, North Dakota, who passed their state CARE Act in March 2019. 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.
“We thank Governor Reynolds for signing this bill to increase understanding and awareness of the scope of caregiving and responsibilities to be expected once the patient is home,” said Ben Jung, Chair of the Iowa Commission of Asian & Pacific Islanders (CAPI). "Many in the Asian community opt to care for elders and other family members in a home setting in a culturally-appropriate manner.”
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 were 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.