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2015 Caregiver Act Helps Arkansans Assist Loved Ones

Family members provide hundreds of thousands of unpaid hours of care each year for parents and other relatives. (shoyhet/iStockphoto)
Family members provide hundreds of thousands of unpaid hours of care each year for parents and other relatives. (shoyhet/iStockphoto)
October 25, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Family caregivers are the first line of defense in preventing elderly patients from returning to the hospital, and an Arkansas state law is providing extra support in that often difficult task. The Arkansas Lay Caregiver Act, which went into effect last year, provides assistance to family caregivers when their loved ones are in the hospital and when they come home.

Herb Sanderson, state director of AARP Arkansas, which worked to help pass the law, said almost one is six Arkansas residents has caretaker responsibilities.

"It's a labor of love," he said. "There are in Arkansas alone over 452,000 caregivers in our state that has a population of around 3 million, so that shows you it's a large, large issue."

Sanderson said family caregivers in Arkansas perform 421 million hours per year of unpaid care with an economic value of $4.7 billion. He said the Caregiver Act allows patients to designate a family caregiver and provides that person with training on medical tasks they will need to perform once their loved one returns home.

He added that AARP also provides valuable resources for caregivers, who can feel overworked and isolated, as they try to balance careers and helping their loved one.

"These caregivers are doing everything from helping people pay their bills to actual skilled nursing care," he added. Oftentimes, these duties are thrust on people unexpectedly and they need some support and help."

He said a recent study shows that is putting the most strain on women who work.

"Caregiving is forcing women 50-plus to leave their workforce, which is going to have an effect on their retirement income in the future," Sanderson explained. "So it's definitely an issue that needs more attention."

Sanderson also said the Caregiver Act gives family members the tools to care for a parent or other loved one at home rather that putting them in expensive, institutionalized care. He added that the AARP Caregiving Resource Center also provides help, information and opportunities to network with other caregivers. Find it online at AARP.org.

Mark Richardson/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - AR