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WA Lawmakers Asked to Give Helping Hand to Family Caregivers

Supporters say the CARE Act would keep family caregivers better informed and better prepared when loved ones are released from the hospital. (Xenia/morguefile)
Supporters say the CARE Act would keep family caregivers better informed and better prepared when loved ones are released from the hospital. (Xenia/morguefile)
February 11, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington legislators are considering an idea that just became a state law in Oregon and Nevada. The CARE Act outlines rules for hospitals so when patients are discharged, they have a caregiver on record who can help with the transition.

Among older patients, Medicare says one in five is readmitted within 30 days, so getting family members involved in followup care could improve those odds. The CARE Act ensures that hospitals demonstrate anything the caregiver might need to do, which Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director for AARP Washington, says is a key part of the bill.

"The intent of the CARE Act is really to give additional training, so that they know exactly how to care for that loved one, whether it be how to use an inhaler or the proper treatment of a wound," says MacCaul. "You know, to give an injection is not something that we all know how to do."

A new AARP survey of 800 Washington voters age 45 and older found two-thirds of family caregivers help with medication management and a variety of medical tasks. More than 90 percent said they'd support hospitals keeping them informed when a patient is transferred or discharged, and providing demonstrations for followup care.

Sen. Barbara Bailey is the CARE Act's sponsor in the Senate, where it passed in the Health Committee last week. She says the bill has bipartisan support and no organized opposition, and thinks that's partly because the bill has financial as well as health-related benefits.

"It will help people stay out of nursing homes, and obviously cost less for the family and the individual," says Bailey. "But it also will save money for the state."

Today, AARP members are delivering more than 6,000 petitions to legislative leaders asking for their support of the CARE Act.

Similar bills are already law in 18 states and Puerto Rico.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA