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Crossing MN's Political Divides: Hearing Today on CARE Act

PHOTO: A first committee hearing is set for today in the Minnesota Senate on a bill aiming to better support family caregivers as they help seniors stay at home and independent. Photo credit: AARP.
PHOTO: A first committee hearing is set for today in the Minnesota Senate on a bill aiming to better support family caregivers as they help seniors stay at home and independent. Photo credit: AARP.
February 11, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A bipartisan effort to provide more support for the state's many family caregivers is moving ahead at the state Capitol, with the bill getting its first committee hearing in the Minnesota Senate today.

Its author in the Senate, state Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said the CARE Act is designed to ensure that caregivers are engaged in the process and instructed on the often complex medical tasks they'll have to perform at home "to make sure that they're given the training that they need, that they're given notice of a discharge in a timely manner, and giving a person who's admitted into the hospital the ability to designate a caregiver in the medical record."

By streamlining the procedures, said the bill's author in the House, Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, there will be improved care at home and a reduction in hospital readmissions "so that if you're in greater Minnesota or if you're in downtown Minneapolis, when you and your loved one gets discharged from the hospital, there's a standardized process and protocol to go over everything that that caregiver will need in order to take care of their loved one."

Zerwas has a personal connection to the need of family caregivers. He was born with a heart defect and spent his childhood in and out of hospitals, undergoing now a total of 10 open-heart surgeries.

"It was not uncommon," he said, "for me to go home on new medications, go home with a portable IV pump or a tube through my chest, and it was kind of 'OK, mom. Watch the nurse change the dressing once or twice and now we're going to send you out into the world.' "

According to AARP Minnesota, there currently are more than 670,000 family caregivers statewide, and that number is expected to grow as the population continues to age.

Details of the legislation (HF210 and SF107) are online at revisor.mn.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN