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North Dakota Lawmakers Begin Family Caregiving Study

North Dakota lawmakers will convene Wednesday to begin a study on what can be done to better support family caregivers in the state. Credit: Silvia Jansen.
North Dakota lawmakers will convene Wednesday to begin a study on what can be done to better support family caregivers in the state. Credit: Silvia Jansen.
August 18, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. – The next North Dakota Legislative Assembly is still more than a year away, but lawmakers are already busy preparing, including a meeting of the Interim Human Services Committee on Wednesday that will examine the issue of family care-giving.

The panel will begin a study on what supports and services are currently available and what more should be done. Among those set to speak is Elaine Ryan, vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration with AARP government affairs. She says one definite need for caregivers is some kind of respite service.

"The average North Dakota family caregiver is 63 years old," she says. "About half of those caregivers work either full- or part-time, so finding time and time off is a key support needed for those family caregivers."

Ryan says another significant need is more information and training for caregivers in basic medical tasks like wound care, medication management and injections.

According to Ryan, North Dakota needs to be proactive in setting up support systems and services as the number of residents impacted continues to grow, with already 62,000 unpaid family caregivers in the state, providing 58 million hours of care each year.

"Those numbers are very hard to digest," she says, "but those are real people who are trying to balance work and family responsibilities in order to make sure that their loved ones can stay in their own homes and not in costly institutions."

According to the recent AARP report Valuing the Invaluable, the total economic impact of North Dakota's unpaid family caregivers is now $860 million annually.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND