Each day in Texas, millions of uncelebrated heroes are giving baths and preparing meals. They’re providing rides to the doctor and grocery store. They’re dispending medicines and handling complex medical tasks, sometimes with little or no training.
They are family caregivers. There are nearly 3.4 million of them in Texas alone, and they’re helping loved ones get the care that they need to live independently at home.
For more than seven years, I was a caregiver to my lifelong love, my late husband Albert. So I know very well that caregivers need help too. That’s why I’m pleased that in the Texas Legislature, state Reps. J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville) and Rick Miller (R-Sugarland) recently filed House Bill 3903, and State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) offered an identical measure, Senate Bill 1952. These bills will make certain that unpaid family caregivers are given at least some basic instruction in completing the medical tasks necessary for caring for their loved ones after a hospital stay.
Known as the CARE Act, the bills track legislation that has already become law in Oklahoma and New Jersey and ensures that hospitals and rehabilitation facilities complete three important tasks surrounding the subject of caregiving. First, the name of the family caregiver is recorded when a loved one is admitted to one of these facilities. Secondly, the family caregiver must be notified if and when the loved one is discharged. And lastly, the hospital or rehabilitation facility must provide an explanation and live instruction of the medical tasks, such as medical management, injections, wound care and transfers, that the family caregiver will perform at home.
Ninety-four percent of Texans are supportive of these bills, according to a telephone survey commissioned by AARP in mid-February. In fact, three out of every four respondents say they strongly support the requirement of explanation and live instruction of medical tasks that should be performed by caregivers. The survey found sweeping support for the legislation across political party lines and ideological leanings.
The responsibility of caregiving affects people of all ages and all backgrounds. House Bill 3903 and Senate Bill 1952 will empower family caregivers with the information they need to help loved ones maintain their independence at home.
Olivia “Ollie” Besteiro is the AARP Texas state president, a volunteer position. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, including more than 2.2 million Texans.