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Family Caregiver Bill Could Ease Burden for Millions

The Michigan CARE Act is designed to keep caregivers informed and educated about their loved ones' needs. Credit: iStockphoto
The Michigan CARE Act is designed to keep caregivers informed and educated about their loved ones' needs. Credit: iStockphoto
September 30, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - More than 2 million Michiganders currently balance the demands of their own lives and jobs with caring for loved ones, and supporters of a bill making its way through the Legislature say it would help ease their burden while reducing costs all around.

A Senate committee on Tuesday heard testimony on the CARE Act, which would require hospitals to record the name of a family caregiver when the loved one is admitted, notify that caregiver if the patient is transferred and provide the caregiver with some training upon the loved one's discharge.

Melissa Seifert associate state director for government affairs at AARP Michigan, said those steps would help ease the transition between hospitals and home care, and avoid unnecessary readmissions.

"Sometimes people go home with a new medication or a wound or have pneumonia," she said, "and just some simple little things to help that caregiver feel more at ease of caring for their loved one."

AARP estimates that caregivers in Michigan devote 1.4 billion hours to caregiving at a total value of more than $15 billion each year. The CARE Act already has been passed into law in 18 states.

There's a taxpayer benefit, too, Seifert said, with Medicare alone reporting that preventable hospital readmissions cost nearly $4 billion a year in Michigan.

"If an individual is put back into the hospital for a similar reason that they were put in the hospital originally, they will not reimburse for that," she said. "So we know that it's really important to keep that loved one at home for health-care costs, too."

Statistically, Seifert said, caregivers are more likely to be women who also work full- or part-time while providing as much as 40 hours of caregiving per week to their loved ones.

The Michigan CARE Act, Senate Bill 352, is online at legislature.mi.gov.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI