New law supports family caregivers

Gov. David Ige signed into law Thursday a bill requiring hospitals to establish procedures giving family caregivers the opportunity to receive instruction in the medical tasks required when their loved ones are discharged.

The CARE Act — HB 2252 HD1 SD2 CD1 — paves the way for greater consideration of caregivers in hospital discharge processes. The law takes effect July, 2017.

Enactment of the CARE Act marks the culmination of three years of legislative advocacy by the Hawaii CARE Act Coalition, whose 21 member organizations have sought greater support for family caregivers and patients they help to remain at home and out of costly, taxpayer-funded institutional care.

Last month, members of the state House and Senate voted unanimously to pass the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act, allowing hospital in-patients to designate a family caregiver, who can receive instruction, prior to discharge, in the medical tasks required when patients go home.

There are more than 154,000 unpaid family caregivers in Hawaii, like Waipahu resident Deidre De Jesus, who take on huge responsibilities that can be overwhelming, stressful and exhausting.

Deidre, 24, and her mom, Elvira, took turns providing intense care for their dad and husband, Jimmy, who died of congestive heart failure in 2013 — and was in and out of the hospital numerous times.

“My dad was discharged at least once a month for six months,” Deidre said. “It was a difficult transition because we had so much support in the hospital. At home, it was just me and my mom providing my dad with care … It was difficult for him and for us.”

Collectively, Hawaii’s caregivers provided unpaid care valued at $2.1 billion in 2013 alone.

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