Senior advocates push for caregiver provisions in Iowa

Hospitals say they already give clear instructions

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DES MOINES — Their cause defeated by a recent legislative deadline, advocates for older Iowans nonetheless are renewing their call for state lawmakers to pass legislation that would help caregivers provide care to seniors discharged from hospitals.

AARP Iowa held a news conference Monday at the Iowa Capitol to implore lawmakers to pass one of twin bills that would allow patients to designate a family caregiver on hospital admissions. The bill also would require hospitals to notify caregivers when the patient is scheduled to be discharged and discuss with the caregiver the patient’s care needs once home.

“The common-sense components of the (legislation) should be included in any health care proposals because Iowa family caregivers are already the cornerstone of our care system,” said Kent Sovern, the state director of AARP Iowa. “They’re the backbone of our care system, and they’re the ones that are going to be relied upon even more (in) this transformed medical system, especially during the critical transition between hospitalization and at-home care.”

A Senate committee passed the bill last year, but the bill has not been debated on the Senate floor. The companion bill in the House was not advanced.

Because of that inaction, the proposal failed to garner the requisite support and died with last week’s legislative deadline. On its own, the proposal no longer is eligible for consideration this year.

But advocates want lawmakers to keep the bill alive by pinning it to the health department budget bill or by other legislative means.

Advocates said some but not all hospitals work with and educate caregivers. A survey conducted for AARP Iowa showed fewer than half of caregivers were given a live demonstration of medical tasks to be performed before a patient’s hospital discharge.

“This shouldn’t be happening at some hospitals some of the time. It should be happening at all hospitals all of the time,” said John Hale, founder and owner of the Hale Group, an Ankeny-based advocacy and consulting company.

Twenty states have passed CARE Act laws, and 12 more — including Iowa — are considering legislation, according to AARP.

Iowa Hospital Association spokesman Scott McIntyre said the legislation is unnecessary and redundant.

Iowa hospitals already provide “clear and thorough discharge instructions” to patients and their caregivers, he said.

Also, he said, federal regulations and accrediting organizations provide incentives to hospitals that provide discharge information and instructions so as to avoid hospital readmissions.

“Iowa legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers understand this,” he said, “which is why they soundly rejected these bills.”

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