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Missouri Families Getting Boost from CARE Act

Home caregiver with senior man in a kitchen

Support for the state’s 730,000 family caregivers has become even more important during a public health crisis, and its two-year-old Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act is playing a key role.

Passed with the strong backing of AARP Missouri, the law assists those who look after immediate family members, relatives or adults with disabilities.

It requires hospitals to record the name of the caregiver when his or her loved one is admitted, to notify the caregiver when the patient is to be moved or discharged, and to give instructions on the medical tasks to be performed at home.

“The CARE Act has been a critical step in providing a higher level of posthospital care for discharged patients,” said Don Smith, 71, an AARP volunteer advocate from Battlefield. “Providing a caregiver with important information and resources about the medical issues gives patients a better chance of recovery.”

Jay Hardenbrook, director of advocacy for AARP Missouri, said hospitals appear to be following the new provisions. That has helped reduce readmissions—a key goal as facilities cope with coronavirus cases.

“We certainly don’t want people to go back to the hospital during a pandemic,” Hardenbrook said.

The chance of a 90-day readmission was reduced by 25 percent when hospitals involved caregivers in the discharge process, the University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute found in a 2017 nationwide survey.

Hardenbrook said it’s important for caregivers to identify themselves to a hospital to make sure that their name is entered into the facility’s system.

More ways to consult

The CARE Act also allows hospitals to provide additional resources to caregivers, such as access to useful websites or phone consultation with medical personnel, which can be very helpful during the pandemic.

“That means the caregiver won’t have to travel or risk person-to-person contact to get needed help,” Smith said.

Kathy Bullis, who directs a family caregiver support program in southeast Missouri, said home care is becoming more important as boomers get older. With smaller families than previous generations, they have fewer potential caregivers.

“Those family caregivers will have to fill in the gaps more than ever,” said Bullis, who works for Aging Matters, an Area Agency on Aging and AARP partner that serves 18 counties. “One person can end up with multiple people to take care of.”

Family caregivers in Missouri provide more than 600 million hours of unpaid care annually, valued at $8 billion. Each year they carry out tasks like managing finances, providing transportation, and helping with bathing and dressing. Some take on complicated medical and nursing tasks, including cleaning wounds, giving injections and managing medications.

AARP Missouri’s efforts to get the CARE Act passed in 2018 included aggressive use of social media and a series of presentations by volunteer speakers to civic groups and senior centers.

Smith said passage of the CARE Act “has been a tremendous success of grassroots action by AARP members.”

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Tim Poor is a writer living in Clayton, MO.

More on Caregiving:

Coronavirus: Protecting and Caring for Loved Ones

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