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Advocates Urge Support for Iowa's Family Caregivers

Despite the fact that two-thirds of Iowa's family caregivers assist loved ones with such complex medical tasks as IVs, only half have ever had training to provide that care. (andyk/morguefile)
Despite the fact that two-thirds of Iowa's family caregivers assist loved ones with such complex medical tasks as IVs, only half have ever had training to provide that care. (andyk/morguefile)
March 16, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - The main focus of the Iowa Legislature in its remaining weeks is to craft the state budget. While most of the discussion is about dollars, one issue also gets to the heart of what many Iowa families are going through: caring for an aging loved one.

Anthony Carroll, state director for advocacy at AARP Iowa, said that requires some policy decisions to provide proper support for family caregivers.

"When you look at family caregivers, they are right now the backbone of health care, of long-term care, providing over two-thirds of the long-term care," he said. "How can we improve the quality, the comfort level, to provide the care they are already providing?"

AARP Iowa, the Alzheimer's Association and Older Iowans Legislature were among the groups calling for action at the Statehouse this week. According to AARP Iowa, nearly two-thirds of family caregivers assist their loved ones with complex tasks, but only half have the instruction or training to provide that care.

An effort to enact the CARE Act - Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable - failed this session. It would have helped families when loved ones are discharged from a hospital, and already is the law in more than a dozen states. But Carroll said the CARE Act's intent still could be incorporated into legislation.

"We're asking that our state insist that all adults, when you enter a hospital, have the option to designate and involve a family caregiver," he said. "And those family caregivers can go home with some assurance, some instruction and demonstration of the medical tasks that they need to perform."

Currently, he said, that in-hospital training happens only half the time. However, some hospitals say they already provide training if needed and don't want an additional requirement.

It's estimated that family caregivers provide care worth almost $4 billion in Iowa each year, which Carroll said makes more training and support for them vital.

"We specifically asked for our state leaders to include legislation aimed at improving the lives of Iowa's family caregivers as part of any health policy, any health budget discussions," he said.

Legislative leaders anticipate determining budget numbers within the next 10 days as they aim toward adjournment before April 19.

The CARE Act was House Study Bill 564 in 2016; it's online at legiscan.com. In 2015, it was Senate File 465, online at legis.iowa.gov.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA