CARE Act is finally in place

Today, Hawaii’s 154,000 family caregivers have more support when a loved one goes into the hospital now that the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act has become law.

So, what’s the big deal? Why does this matter?

It’s making life better for caregivers and those they are serving.

Family caregivers play a key role in looking after spouses, parents, friends who are ailing. What this new CARE Act law does is make it clear that family caregivers are part of the patient care team. Hawaii joins more than 30 states that have adopted the law, and we’re among those who support this law that provides three supports for family caregivers when a patient goes into the hospital and as they transition home. They are:

w Identification – A patient has the opportunity to designate a family caregiver on the medical record when admitted to the hospital.

w Notification – The family caregiver is notified if their loved one is to be discharged home or transferred to another facility.

w Instruction – Hospitals must offer family caregivers instruction on the medical tasks they will need to perform at home.

All of this makes sense and it’s surprising it took this long to have such a law in place, or that this actually had to be a law.

“Having a loved one go into the hospital and return home is a stressful time for family caregivers,” said Barbara Kim Stanton, state director of AARP Hawaii. “AARP fought for the CARE Act to make it easier for family caregivers and patients to work with the hospital for the best possible outcome.

“It’s our hope that the law will empower caregivers and hospitals to form a partnership for the best possible care. Healthcare works best when everybody works together and consumers are empowered,” she added.

This law is only part of the equation.

Kauai geriatrician and palliative care physician Dr. Laurel Coleman said the time for families to talk about hospital care decisions, caregiving and post-hospital care is before a serious illness or injury happens.

Coleman was the featured speaker at a free AARP Hawaii workshop in Kapaa in early June.

“Hospitalization is hardly ever anticipated and rarely planned for and yet it is very common as we age to need hospitalization,” Coleman said. “I think it’s valuable to talk and plan as much as we can so that we feel more capable and prepared when facing important health decisions.”

Next is raising awareness of this law.

AARP and about 15 partner organizations are distributing wallet cards with information on the three supports that the CARE Act provides. They are also promoting the resources available to help caregivers and about the “I Heart Caregivers” storytelling initiative, which highlights the extraordinary job caregivers do in our community.

“Family caregivers are unsung heroes,” Stanton said. “I Heart Caregivers recognizes what they do and helps AARP fight for more support for caregivers in Hawaii, for more services like help at home, workplace flexibility, training, relief and much more.”

Because family caregivers deliver for their loved ones every day, AARP is delivering for them. AARP will give caregivers a gift card for gas, groceries or the drug store when they share family caregiving stories at aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.

Everyone, even if they are not a caregiver, should visit the website and read the stories from Hawaii’s caregivers. They are, as Stanton says, inspiring.

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