In Some States, a New Focus on Family Caregivers

A new Oklahoma law that took effect in November requires hospitals to train a designated family caregiver to tend to the medical needs of a released patient. Since then, 12 more states (Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have approved similar laws. In Illinois and New York, legislation is awaiting the governor’s signature. As many as 42 million Americans take care of a family member at any given time. Traditionally, family caregivers provide assistance with bathing, dressing, and eating. They shop for groceries and manage finances. But as the number of elderly Americans with chronic conditions has grown, family caregivers have taken on medical tasks once provided only in hospitals, nursing homes, or by home care professionals.

In an AARP survey released in 2012, nearly half of family caregivers said they administered multiple medications, cared for wounds, prepared food for special diets, used monitors, or operated specialized medical equipment. Despite frequent emergency department visits and overnight hospital stays, few of the respondents reported receiving any assistance or training from health professionals. In a number of cases, the lawmakers sponsoring so-called CARE (which stands for Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) bills have personal experience as caregivers. Democratic state Rep. Chris Walsh of Massachusetts, who is sponsoring a CARE bill in his state, tended to his late mother in his home. Now Walsh’s father, who has Alzheimer’s, lives with him.

Source/more: Pew Charitable Trusts

David Wingate is an elder law attorney, who practices in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice consists of wills, powers of attorney, living wills, trusts, asset protection and Medicaid.

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