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Caregiving Takes Center Stage at State Capitol

PHOTO: AARP Oregon says the typical family caregiver is a woman in her 60s who works full or part-time and helps her older parent with transportation and chores, and often oversees medications and personal finances. Photo credit: click/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: AARP Oregon says the typical family caregiver is a woman in her 60s who works full or part-time and helps her older parent with transportation and chores, and often oversees medications and personal finances. Photo credit: click/morguefile.com.
April 23, 2015

SALEM, Ore. - A new AARP survey of Oregonians ages 45 and older finds most of them are, or one day will be, caregivers for an aging family member.

Groups that want the state to acknowledge that, and pitch in to help, converge on the Capitol today. As lawmakers wrestle with budget decisions, the "Campaign for Oregon Seniors and People with Disabilities" is asking them not to trim the programs and services that allow many people to stay at home as they age.

Jon Bartholomew, director of government relations with AARP Oregon, says a strong safety net ends up saving the state money.

"The state of Oregon, through Medicaid, pays for a lot of long-term care," says Bartholomew. "The longer somebody is being taken care of in their own home by a loved one who has appropriate training, appropriate resources, the less cost on the taxpayers."

He points out that about 460,000 Oregonians are providing unpaid care for family members, which is worth an estimated $5.5 billion a year. The coalition warns if the Oregon "kicker" tax rebate is triggered, which is likely, it will leave less money for safety-net services at a time when the state's aging population is booming.

In the AARP Oregon survey, 76 percent of respondents said they support resources and training for family caregivers. The Legislature created Oregon Care Partners to provide some of that training, from medication management to dementia care but after only one year, its funding expires at the end of June.

Project director Angela Neal says the in-person and online classes have been well received.

"The need is overwhelming, and so we are a resource to help train these individuals so they know how to better care for their loved ones to give them support," says Neal. "It also helps them to have a less stressful care-giving experience."

The Legislature also is considering a bill known as the CARE Act, to keep family caregivers informed when a relative is released from the hospital, and to ensure they get some basic training if needed for post-discharge care. It passed unanimously this week in the House Committee on Health Care and heads to the House floor for a vote.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR