DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds used a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday to pay tribute to the thousands of “unsung heroes” in Iowa who voluntarily give their time to care for family members, friends and other loved ones recovering in their homes after a hospital stay.
Representatives of numerous stakeholder groups who worked on behalf of more than 317,000 lay caregivers crowded into the governor’s formal Capitol office to witness her signing into law Senate File 210, a bill intended to assist them in dealing with challenging health situations once a patient is sent home after a hospital stay.
“It really is a privilege for me to sign this,” Reynolds told the crowd, many holding red hearts to commemorate their four-year legislative journey that ended with the Iowa Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act becoming law. The law takes effect July 1.
Under the legislation, the name of a voluntary family caregiver is recorded when a person is admitted into a hospital if the patient chooses to designate one. The designated family caregiver is then notified when a patient is scheduled to be discharged, and hospital personnel are to discuss the caregivers’ abilities and limitations as well as the patient’s care needs at home. Personnel also must provide the caregiver with an explanation of the medical tasks to be performed, such as medication management, injections and wound care.
“Today is enormously significant because the 317,000 caregivers are protected under the CARE Act. We were one of less than 10 states that didn’t have a CARE Act up until now, and now we finally do,” said Brad Anderson, AARP Iowa state director. “It’s been four years in the making. It required a lot of conversations with a lot of stakeholders. Obviously we’re very excited. The governor signing it is a very big deal.”
Backers of the bill that passed 49-0 in the Iowa Senate and 94-3 in the Iowa House called it a common-sense agreement with Iowa hospital and nursing representatives that will save the state money, keep elderly residents out of nursing facilities and provide a healthier solution for patients to heal faster in their homes.
According to 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 they provide — valued at about $3.8 billion a year — helps keep older Iowans out of costly, taxpayer-funded institutions, or from going back into the hospital.
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Iowa now becomes the 42nd state or U.S. territory to enact CARE Act or similar legislation for caregiving families. 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 AARP.
“Caregivers are unsung heroes who generously give their time to selflessly attend to their loved ones, and Senate File 210 requires hospitals to provide admitted patients with the option to designate a lay caregiver and then provide the caregiver with the tools, education and information on how to adequately care for their loved ones” Reynolds said before signing the bill.
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