Legislation would help caregivers of those with dementia [CT Post]

February 11, 2015

Article as it appeared in the CT Post
HARTFORD – Relatives and close friends of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are often under-informed and ill-prepared when patients leave hospitals for home or other residential facilities.

But a bill that received bipartisan support on Tuesday would require hospitals to notify caregivers and help them prepare to deal with medication protocols.

The legislation, supported by the AARP and the state chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, would help unpaid family caregivers obtain instructions on follow-up care.

It’s aimed at keeping patients in their homes longer and making it easier for as many as 700,000 caregivers in the state.

“This bill will be a help to hospitals as well,” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven said during a news conference. “By insuring that caregivers receive information and training, the bill could potentially reduce costly hospital readmissions. The federal government recently began a program that penalizes hospitals for certain readmissions.”

The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act would allow patients to designate a family caregiver; provide notification to caregivers before hospital discharge; and make clear hospital instructions on administering medications and injections, caring for wounds and other services.

Family members and other caregivers in Connecticut provide the equivalent of $5.8 billion a year in unpaid services.

“This is a movement that is catching on throughout the country,” Looney said, stressing that its estimated cost is minimal, compared to the benefits.

Nora Duncan, state director for AARP Connecticut, said it’s a “labor of love” that family members perform to keep senior citizens in their homes and out of institutions.

“These unsung heroes are the backbone of the long-term-care system in Connecticut,” Duncan said, noting that the AARP recently held listening sessions throughout the state and many surveyed said they want to keep family members in the home. “Many caregivers are on call 24/7. They’re unable to take a break. They’re often required to perform complex tasks, such as injections, wound care, medication management. It puts a lot of stress on a caregiver.”

Mary Mackey, special projects manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, said the CARE Act would definitely assist the 176,000 caregivers that are registered with the state chapter and provide about 200 million hours of unpaid care annually.

“Caregiving, as you can imagine, can be very strenuous and overwhelming at times, so it is critically important that we provide caregivers and patients with the tools necessary to provide quality care, not only for the benefit of the individual that is being cared for, but also for the benefit of the caregiver for their emotional wellbeing,” Mackey said.

Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, ranking member of the Aging Committee, which heard testimony on the legislation Tuesday, called the bill a “common sense, practical solution to what happens every day in the life of a caregiver and individuals seeking to age in place.”