More than 15 AARP volunteers attended the May meeting of the legislature’s Interim Human Services Committee to show their support for North Dakota family caregivers.
At the May 10 meeting, Dr. Jane Strommen and her team of Dr. Gregory Sanders and Dr. Heather Fuller from NDSU Extension presented their final report and recommendations on how to better support North Dakota’s 62,100 unpaid family caregivers.
Here are highlights from the research:
- Roughly 50 percent of our state’s caregivers performing medical or nursing tasks do not get the appropriate instruction or training to perform these tasks.
- North Dakota caregivers struggle to find assistance to get the breaks (respite care) they need to alleviate burnout.
- Caregivers in North Dakota are unaware of the services and supports available for their loved one or themselves.
- Even when they learn about the services, navigating the complex web of supports, programs, and information is confusing.
- Working North Dakota caregivers struggle to find an appropriate work-life balance.
The researchers recommended establishing a family caregiving task force to flesh out additional needs and shortcomings; to explore ways to lift restrictive eligibility criteria; and to improve resources to address caregiver well-being.
In addition to the task force, the researchers proposed five broad categories of recommendations:
- Improve avenues for sustainable funding for family caregivers and programs that support them.
- Increase access to respite care across the state.
- Improve outreach (i.e. marketing) and resources (i.e. technology) to help family caregivers find, connect to, and navigate available services.
- Create programs and policies to foster an increase in the training and education of both informal and professional caregivers. (This recommendation includes the need to provide in-person instruction about medical/nursing tasks that the caregiver will need to provide at home.)
- Close the gaps in caregiver support services in rural areas.
The Interim Human Services Committee is scheduled to meet again in July and will begin putting forward recommendations based on these findings to be considered by the 2017 North Dakota Legislature.
We will need the support of our members and nonmembers to press the committee to put this research into action.
Additionally, we have been working with committee chair Representative Kathy Hogan and the hospitals on a compromise version of the CARE Act. At the May 10 meeting, a draft bill incorporating those compromises was presented. Unfortunately, despite our hard work to accommodate all of the hospital considerations and requests, they still testified in opposition to the bill.
AARP strongly supports the CARE Act, which has already passed in 29 states, and asked the committee to move the bill forward. The committee has yet to take action on this bill draft.
The full NDSU Extension study report can be found here.