New law helping family caregivers begins July 1st

DES MOINES — AARP Iowa held the first of what will be several education sessions Wednesday on a new law for family caregivers that goes into effect Monday.

The group’s advocacy director Anthony Carroll says the CARE Act will make an impact across the state. “Family caregivers represent the majority of long-term services and support. With over 317-thousand family caregivers who provide care to loved ones in unpaid fashion every day,” Carroll says.

The law requires hospitals to give patients the opportunity to name a caregiver at the start of the process. “If you’re going into a hospital with a loved one as a family caregiver — you perhaps don’t even identify yourself yet as a family caregiver,” Carroll says. “So, having the hospital ask a patient and loved one ‘do you have a family caregiver that you are going home to, would you like to record them and put them into your medical record’?”

There is also followup to the initial notation of a caregiver. “And if you do chose to designate a caregiver — that caregiver is notified before the patient is sent home. And then, last but not least, there’s an opportunity have a discussion about the caregiver’s abilities, limitations, and an opportunity to receive instructions on any medical care needed before that patient is sent home — rather than you get home and realize, what do I need to do, how do I need to do this,” according to Carroll.

He says the process is designed to take the surprises out of the situation for the caregiver. “Thinking from the git-go what you might need to do. Being prepared to ask questions, and then hopefully alleviating the stress that comes with that situation, being thrust in that role perhaps unanticipated after the fact,” Carroll says. “So, that’s really the idea, elevating family caregivers, helping them think about it upon admission.”

Carroll says they also understand the issues facing healthcare providers and this should help them better server patients.
“The provider themselves actually has a better understanding of what exactly care reality or support reality is this patient returning home to,” he says.

Carroll says AARP has information available to help you understand the new law. “There’s free downloadable cards available — you don’t have to be an AARP member — there’s no cost, at www.AARP/IA. Again, that’s an opportunity for people to understand what the new law is. You can detach a wallet card and put it in your pocket,” Carroll says. He says they have been working with the area agencies on aging and other groups to get the information out about the new law.