Health

Cedar Rapids officials raise awareness of Iowa CARE Act aimed at family caregivers

Act set to go into effect July 1

Jill Sindt, co-director of the Heritage Area Agency on Aging, speaks about the Iowa CARE Act as Dave Storey, board chairman of the Greater Iowa Alzheimer’s Association, looks on during a news conference at the Family Caregivers Center of Mercy in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday. The law takes effect July 1 and is aimed at helping family caregivers access resources. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jill Sindt, co-director of the Heritage Area Agency on Aging, speaks about the Iowa CARE Act as Dave Storey, board chairman of the Greater Iowa Alzheimer’s Association, looks on during a news conference at the Family Caregivers Center of Mercy in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday. The law takes effect July 1 and is aimed at helping family caregivers access resources. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Days before the law is set to go into effect, Cedar Rapids advocates and lobbyists gathered to educate family caregivers of the resources available to them through the Iowa CARE Act.

The Family Caregiver Center of Mercy in Cedar Rapids hosted a news conference Wednesday on the Iowa Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable, or CARE, Act, set to go live July 1.

The act, which was passed bipartisan support in the state’s House and Senate, is expected to address many concerns faced by family caregivers after their loved one’s hospital stay, according to advocates Wednesday.

“So while the CARE Act does not really state that its purpose is being one of reducing caregiver stress, I believe that it does that,” said Kathy Good, director of the Family Caregiver Center.

“This reduces caregiver angst and allows the caregiver to use their energy to be able to actually focus on meeting the needs of their loved one, rather than using their energy to deal with their own feelings of inadequacy,” she said.

The group — which included representatives from the Family Caregivers Center, AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Heritage Area Agency on Aging — presented wallet cards that outlines the act and the resources available to family caregivers through the law.

Under this law, Iowa patients can designate a family caregiver and put that name on record when admitted to the hospital. That designated caregiver is notified when the family member is discharged to go home, and hospital staff discuss the caregiver’s abilities and limitations when it comes to patient care.

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Hospital staff, under this law, also must discuss the patient’s needs at home and provide the caregiver an explanation of medical tasks to be performed.

Sam McCord, 69-year-old Cedar Rapids resident who is the full-time caregiver for his wife, Mary, spoke on the benefits of this type of law. Mary McCord, 75, was diagnosed with early onset dementia five years ago.

She recently spent two days in the hospital for pneumonia. As she was discharged, Sam McCord said he was provided with an itemized list for her recovery, which included her medications and when his wife should take them.

“What they provided for us was really a lot of information, especially for me,” Sam said. “They went over everything with Mary, but being her caregiver, I’m the one that needs to be there 24/7, so that information is understood properly.”

The steps the law mandates has been happening, but not perfectly, said Good, of the Family Caregiver Center. The Iowa CARE Act reinforces “the good that’s already happening” and ensures it will take place throughout the state.

Signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on April 9, the Iowa CARE Act makes Iowa the 42nd state or U.S. territory to enact a CARE Act of similar legislation. According to AARP, no federal laws, rules or regulations define steps hospitals should take so caregivers are engaged in loved ones’ care.

More than 317,000 Iowans help care for their family members, including older parents, spouses, adults and children with disabilities and other loved ones to help them live safely in their homes and communities, AARP reports.

The 295 million hours of assistance they provide each year equates to about $3.8 billion in unpaid care, and helps keep Iowans out of the hospital or out of costly, taxpayer-funded institutions.

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Anthony Carroll, AARP associate state director-advocay, said he and other backers of the law feel good about this step, but “there’s definitely more needs to be done.” That includes respite care and other financial supports for family caregivers.

This passing is not the end, Carroll said, “it’s the beginning. And it’s not the only thing family caregivers need — (they need) public policy support, but also individual support.”

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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