ALBANY, N.Y. – New York State lawmakers lent a critical helping hand today to millions of family caregivers and those for whom they care by giving final legislative passage to the CARE Act, top priority legislation for AARP that will help New Yorkers age safely at home.
The bill, which ensures hospital patients’ designated family caregivers are offered instruction in providing needed care at home, won Assembly approval 119-0, following the Senate’s 59-0 passage on May 27. Next stop: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk. His signature would make New York the 12th state – and the largest – to put the CARE Act on the books.
The bill would help as many as 2.8 million New Yorkers who provide unpaid care to family and loved ones at any time, plus as many as 1.6 million adult New Yorkers who are discharged home from hospitals every year. The value of this unpaid care is estimated at $32 billion a year.
“This is truly a red letter day for family caregivers across New York,” said Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP in New York State. “Our lawmakers should be proud of voting to make a real and positive difference in the lives of millions, whether they be those providing care to family members and loved ones at home or those receiving the care.
“Information is power, and the Legislature is empowering millions of family caregivers.”
AARP especially commends the bill’s two key sponsors: Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. Both stood alongside caregivers and advocates throughout the session and worked tirelessly to enlist the support of their colleagues.
The Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act ( S.676 Hannon/ A. 1323 Rosenthal) ensures hospital patients can designate a family caregiver and requires hospitals to offer that caregiver instruction and demonstrations of medical tasks they will be expected to provide for their loved ones at home, such as administering multiple medications, dressing wounds and operating medical equipment.
The CARE Act enjoys broad support among New York voters 50 and older, with 92% saying hospitals should “explain and demonstrate” to family caregivers medical tasks they’ll have to perform when their loved ones are sent home from the hospital, a 2014 AARP survey found.
“The CARE Act is a win-win,” said Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau). “It helps patients, their caregivers and health care providers by improving patients’ health and reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions and ER visits.”
“I am so pleased that my bill to empower and protect New York's caregivers has passed the Assembly,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). “Once this bill becomes law, patients in New York will be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that their loved ones and family members, the people who will be providing them care at home, will have the support and information they need to be successful. I want to thank AARP for its outstanding advocacy on behalf of New York's caregivers.”
“Caregivers need support,” said Peggy Hernandez of Brooklyn, caregiver for her husband, Carlos, who has Alzheimer’s. “We are not medical professionals, yet we are expected to perform complicated medical tasks. We need to be instructed and we need to be told and shown how to take care of wounds, administer medicines in the right dosages, combinations and times, and do all the things we need to do to make sure the person we love is well-cared for.”
"Anything that can help reduce the stress and anxiety is a welcome benefit for caregivers,” said Linda Waddington of Rotterdam, who cares for her husband, Frank, an Alzheimer’s patient. “The CARE Act is an excellent way to help people take care of their loved ones when they are released from the hospital. I thank the Legislature for supporting this measure."
“Family caregivers, especially those who are new at it, don’t even know to ask” for the information they need, said Jerome Brown, 57, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, caregiver for his wife, Linda, for 20 years. “They’re overwhelmed. It shouldn’t be all on them, especially at a vulnerable and scary time like hospital discharge. The CARE Act would ensure it isn’t all on them.”
The legislation has garnered vast support from a wide range of organizations representing consumers, health advocates and seniors and people with disabilities, including the Coalition of New York State Alzheimer’s Associations, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment, Inc.
Governor Cuomo proposed a similar Caregiver Support Initiative in his 2015 Opportunity Agenda/State of the State (pages 305-306) and AARP is hopeful he will sign the CARE Act into law once it reaches his desk.
The needs and the ranks of New York’s family caregivers are only expected to increase as New York’s population ages - yet AARP found that in the coming years, fewer family members will be available to provide care for more older loved ones who will need it. In 2010 there was a potential pool of 6.6 people aged 45-65 for every person 80 and older who would likely need care at some point. That number will shrink to 4.8 by 2030 and 3.5 by 2050.
About half of all family caregivers perform medical and nursing tasks for loved ones. And most care recipients don’t receive home visits by health care professionals.
The CARE Act, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, is expected to help more New Yorkers age in their own homes, rather than in costly, taxpayer-funded nursing homes or other institutional settings. The bill, which could help reduce costly hospital readmissions, also requires that patients’ designated family caregivers be identified and included in official medical records and that hospitals notify family caregivers prior to a patient’s transfer or discharge.
New Jersey, Oklahoma, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi have enacted similar CARE Acts and the legislation has recently passed the state legislatures in Connecticut, Illinois and Oregon.
Contacts: Erik Kriss, email@example.com; Donna Liquori, firstname.lastname@example.org
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