ALBANY, New York – Critical help for millions of family caregivers across New York took a giant step toward reality today when the State Senate unanimously passed the CARE Act, legislation to support family caregivers as they safely help New Yorkers age at home.
The CARE Act, AARP’s top state legislative priority for 2015, is expected to begin moving soon in the Assembly. With Governor Andrew Cuomo having proposed a similar Caregiver Support Initiative in his 2015 Opportunity Agenda/State of the State (pages 305-306), AARP is optimistic this important measure will become a reality this year and begin providing New York’s family caregivers the tools they need to properly care for their loved ones.
The Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act ensures hospital patients can designate a family caregiver and requires hospitals to offer that caregiver instruction and demonstrations of medical tasks they are being expected to provide for their loved ones at home, such as administering multiple medications, dressing wounds and operating medical equipment.
“Caring for a person with complex medical needs is not an easy task, but there are millions of people out there who are performing this valuable service every day,” said Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos.
“The CARE Act is a win-win,” explained 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.”
“AARP thanks Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon for their leadership in passing this bill, which would help millions of New Yorkers,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York, after the 58-0 vote. “The better prepared family caregivers are when they take their loved ones home from the hospital, the smoother the transition will be for both patient and caregiver and the better the health outcome.”
Senate passage of the CARE Act comes a day after the prime Assembly sponsor of the bill, Linda B. Rosenthal, stood with AARP and other supporters to announce the measure ( A.1323-A) as one of her top 2015 priorities. AARP expects the CARE Act to clear committees and go to the floor for an Assembly vote before the scheduled June end of the legislative session.
The bill could help 1.6 million adult New Yorkers a year who are discharged home from hospitals, as well as many of the state’s more than four million family caregivers – whose numbers 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.
“Caregivers need support,” said Peggy Hernandez of Brooklyn, caregiver for her husband, Carlos, who has Alzheimer’s. “We are not medical professionals, yet we need to perform 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.”
“Family caregivers, especially those who are new at it, don’t even know to ask” how to provide proper care at first, said Jerome Brown, 56, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, who has been caring for his wife, Linda, for 20 years. “They’re overwhelmed. It shouldn’t be on them, especially at a vulnerable and scary time like hospital discharge. The CARE Act would ensure it isn’t on them.”
About half of all family caregivers perform medical and nursing tasks for their loved ones. AARP estimates New York’s family caregivers provide care valued at an estimated $32 billion a year.
The CARE Act, which has the support of a wide range of organizations representing consumers, health advocates and seniors and people with disabilities, would 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 reduce costly hospital readmissions, 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.
The bill enjoys broad support among New York voters 50 and older. More than 90% think 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.
AARP members from the Capital Region attended today’s Senate vote after urging Assembly members to move on the bill. AARP members from around the state plan to travel to the State Capitol weekly to urge state legislators to pass the CARE Act.
Contacts: Erik Kriss, firstname.lastname@example.org; Chaunda Ball, email@example.com
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