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Virginia Lawmakers Asked to Honor, Help Caregivers

GRAPHIC: Tuesday is caregivers day at the General Assembly in Richmond, and caregivers from around the commonwealth say they want to make sure they get clear instructions on how to look after loved ones when discharged from a facility. Graphic courtesy of AARP.
GRAPHIC: Tuesday is caregivers day at the General Assembly in Richmond, and caregivers from around the commonwealth say they want to make sure they get clear instructions on how to look after loved ones when discharged from a facility. Graphic courtesy of AARP.
January 27, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - Residents who care for loved ones at home are flooding the General Assembly this week to ask commonwealth lawmakers to honor their unpaid work, and help them do their caregiving work better.

Today is Caregivers' Day at the capitol, and residents like Diane Rainier of Virginia Beach want legislators to understand how they live. Rainier says it's a full-time job caring for her daughter with brain damage, but she adds it's something she would never leave to another person.

"My daughter will never be in an institution as long as I'm alive and physically able," she says.

AARP Virginia is backing legislation designed to build better support for family caregivers. Caregivers say when their loved ones are discharged from a facility, they would like to get clear instructions on what kind of care is needed. Two bills are up for discussion on Tuesday.

A failure to get accurate information and training from health care providers is a recurrent complaint from unpaid caregivers. Katherine Jackson of North Chesterfield cares for her mother, and says her mother was "all but dumped" in her lap twice: once when getting out of a long-term care facility, and once when being released from a hospital.

"When she was released from the hospital, they said, 'Okay, it's time to pick her up.' I was kind of flabbergasted. No training or anything," she says. "I just couldn't believe they just dumped her out."

According to national estimates, family caregivers provide unpaid services valued at about $20 billion annually, but Rainier adds the health care system doesn't seem to know how to work with them. She says the only place to get the care information you need is at the hospital, often when a loved one is being released.

"But if you don't know the right questions to ask, you very often leave without the information you need," she says.

More information about proposed caregiver legislation in Virginia can be found at the AARP Virginia website, at www.aarp.org/va.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA