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"Unsung Heroes" Need Senate Vote on Caregiver Bill - AARP

One-point-six million Pennsylvanians serve as unpaid family caregivers. (Jonathan Banks/
One-point-six million Pennsylvanians serve as unpaid family caregivers. (Jonathan Banks/
December 17, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Advocates are asking the State Senate to pass a bill that would give those caring for family members at home some needed help, at no expense to the state. The CARE Act passed in the House last June, but so far the bill hasn't come to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director with AARP, says it would require hospitals to designate a family caregiver for patients while they're in the hospital.

"They'll notify the family caregiver that the loved one is going to be discharged," says Johnston-Walsh. "And it's going to require training of any medical task to be given to the family caregiver that they're going to be asked to perform at home."

Versions of the CARE Act, known as HB 1329, have been adopted in more than a dozen other states.

According to AARP, unpaid family caregivers in Pennsylvania provide an estimated 1.5 billion hours of care every year. Surveys indicate most older adults want to stay at home for as long as possible and as Johnston-Walsh points out, the alternatives are much more expensive.

"Once they go on Medicaid the state starts picking up the cost and it's much more expensive to keep them in a facility than to keep them at home," he says.

Family caregivers provide more than $19 billion worth of care in Pennsylvania every year.

Johnston-Walsh says it's time for the Senate to help those who make it possible for seniors to stay at home to get the help they need.

"We have 1.6 million caregivers in the state," he says. "And they're the unsung heroes that really need this legislation, the CARE Act, House Bill 1329, passed."

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA