By Rod Boshart, Gazette Des Moines Bureau
According to the AARP, more than 317,000 Iowans help older parents, spouses, adults and children with disabilities and other loved ones so they can live safely and independently in their homes and communities.
The unpaid assistance — valued at about $3.8 billion a year — helps keep older Iowans out of costly, taxpayer-funded institutions, or from going back to the hospital.
Iowa is one of a dozen states that do not have a law similar to one the AARP has been advocating called the Iowa CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act that outlines no-cost steps to help the caregivers. AARP Iowa set the bill’s passage as its top legislative priority this year.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE
Iowans who care for family members or loved ones facing health issues that required hospitalization could get some valuable assistance in managing challenging situations and help in keeping people in their homes under legislation awaiting Gov. Kim Reynolds’ expected signature.
Iowa senators voted 49-0 and representatives followed suit with a 94-3 verdict last week in approving the Iowa CARE legislation.
The act outlines steps to help caregivers when their charges enter a hospital for an inpatient stay and then transition back home to recover.
“I’ve been a caregiver at least three times in my life and in all instances I needed more information,” said Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, floor manager for Senate File 210.
He applauded features of the bill providing that the name of the voluntary caregiver is recorded when a loved one is admitted into a hospital, if the patient chooses to designate one. Under the measure, the designated caregiver is notified when a patient is to be discharged. Hospital personnel are to discuss the caregivers’ abilities and limitations as well as the patient’s care needs at home and to provide the caregiver with an explanation of the medical tasks to be performed — such as medication management, injections and wound care.
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Segebart called the idea a common-sense agreement worked out with Iowa hospital representatives that will save the state money, keep elderly residents out of nursing facilities and provide a healthier solution for patients who heal in their homes.
“I think it is especially important to engage the family when someone is going home from a facility and this is critical to making that healing time a success,” said Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City.
“This is a positive step to better prepare people to provide the care that they’re already providing,” said Anthony Carroll, an AARP Iowa lobbyist who pushed the proposal for at least five years before landing approval this year.
Reynolds’ signature would make Iowa the 39th state to adopt legislation addressing caregiving families when the legislation would take effect July 1.
No federal laws, rules or regulations — including those for Medicare — define the steps hospitals must take so caregivers are engaged in their loved ones’ care, according to the AARP.
“Believe it or not, patient dumping doesn’t just happen in big cities like San Francisco and L.A. It happens here in Iowa, too,” said Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, during Senate floor debate.
“When a patient who has just been discharged from the hospital shows up at a homeless shelter still in their hospital attire with their wrist band still on with absolutely no plan whatsoever, it not only gives patients peace of mind but it gives some responsibility to the discharging hospital to making sure that that patient actually has an appropriate place to land when they’re discharged,” Celsi added.
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