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Help for Family Caregivers as NY Governor Signs CARE Act

  • Published: 2015-10-27 : Author: AARP New York : Contact:
  • Synopsis: N.Y. CARE Act will help New Yorkers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition back home.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has lent a critical helping hand to millions of family caregivers and the loved ones for whom they care by signing into law the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act, top priority legislation for AARP that will help New Yorkers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.

A caregiver, or carer, is defined as an unpaid or paid person who helps another individual with an impairment with his or her activities of daily living. Any person with a health impairment might use caregiving services to address their difficulties. Caregiving is most commonly used to address impairments related to old age, disability, a disease, or a mental disorder.

The new law, which will ensure hospital patients' designated family caregivers are offered instruction in providing needed care at home, won unanimous support in both houses of the Legislature this year: 59-0 in the Senate and 119-0 in the Assembly.

The Governor's action makes New York the 18th state to put the CARE Act on the books.

AARP and New York's hospital associations worked together on the bill.

Sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon and Assembly-member Linda B. Rosenthal (S.676 /A.1323), the new law will help many of the nearly 2.6 million New Yorkers who provide unpaid care to family and loved ones, plus as many as 1.6 million adult New Yorkers who are discharged home from hospitals every year. The value of this unpaid care is estimated at $31.3 billion a year.

"This is a great day for family caregivers across New York," said Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP in New York State. "The Governor, Senator Hannon, Assembly-member Rosenthal and all of our lawmakers should take a bow for making a real and positive difference in the lives of millions, whether they be those providing care to family members and loved ones at home or those receiving the care.

"Information is power, and the CARE Act will empower millions of family caregivers."

"New York's new CARE Act will make a real difference in patient care and health outcomes," said Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau). "Caregivers will be identified while the patient is still in the hospital, involved in the discharge plan and provided personalized instruction on post discharge care. This new law embodies the triple aim of health care: improving health, enhancing quality and reducing cost, and I congratulate all those who helped make it a reality."

"I am so pleased Governor Cuomo has signed into law my bill to empower and protect New York's family caregivers," said Assembly-member Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). "Patients in New York will be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that their loved ones and family members - the people who will be providing them care at home - will have the support and information they need to be successful. I want to thank AARP for its outstanding advocacy on behalf of New York's caregivers."

"When a patient is going home from the hospital, it is important that they have a support system in place during this vulnerable time," said Dennis Whalen, President of The Healthcare Association of New York State. "This legislation recognizes the critical support provided by caregivers after a patient is discharged from the hospital to home, and makes after-care needs of the patient a priority. HANYS thanks Governor Cuomo, the legislative sponsors Senator Hannon and Assembly-member Rosenthal, and the entire legislature for their hard work on this vitally important issue."

The CARE Act takes effect in 180 days and will:

The CARE Act enjoys broad support among New York voters 50 and older, with 92% saying hospitals should "explain and demonstrate" to family caregivers tasks they'll have to perform when their loved ones are sent home from the hospital, a 2014 AARP survey found.

"Caregivers need support," said Peggy Hernandez of Brooklyn, caregiver for her husband, Carlos, who has Alzheimer's. "We are not medical professionals, yet we are expected to perform complicated health tasks. We need to be instructed and we need to be told and shown how to take care of wounds, administer medicines in the right dosages, combinations and times, and do all the things we need to do to make sure the person we love is well-cared for."

"Reducing the stress and anxiety for caregivers is a welcome benefit," said Linda Waddington of Rotterdam, who cares for her husband, Frank, an Alzheimer's patient. "The CARE Act will help people take care of their loved ones after they're released from the hospital. I thank the Legislature for approving this measure and I thank the Governor for signing it into law."

"Family caregivers, especially those who are new at it, don't even know to ask" for the information they need, said Jerome Brown, 57, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, who cares for his wife of 20 years, Linda. "They're overwhelmed. It shouldn't be all on them, especially at a vulnerable and scary time like hospital discharge. The CARE Act will ensure it isn't all on them."

"I am so grateful to Governor Cuomo for recognizing the importance of the CARE Act," said Tracy Murphy of Syracuse, who cares for her mother. "When my mom first developed heart disease a few years ago and I had to take her home from the hospital, I really didn't feel prepared to care for her. Although we managed - with help - it was extremely stressful for both of us. I believe the CARE Act will go a long way toward alleviating caregiver stress and allowing New Yorkers to age in place."

The CARE Act garnered vast support from a wide range of organizations representing consumers, health advocates and seniors and people with disabilities, including the Coalition of New York State Alzheimer's Associations, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment, Inc.

Governor Cuomo proposed a similar Caregiver Support Initiative in his 2015 Opportunity Agenda/State of the State (pages 305-306).

The needs and the ranks of New York's family caregivers are only expected to increase as New York's population ages - yet AARP found that in the coming years, fewer family members will be available to provide care for more older loved ones who will need it. In 2010 there was a potential pool of 6.6 people aged 45-65 for every person 80 and older who would likely need care at some point. That number will shrink to 4.8 by 2030 and 3.5 by 2050.

About half of all family caregivers perform health-related and nursing tasks for loved ones. And most care recipients don't receive home visits by health care professionals.

The CARE Act is expected to help more New Yorkers age in their own homes, the most cost-effective approach and the one most New Yorkers want. The measure, which could help reduce costly hospital readmissions, also requires that patients' designated family caregivers be identified and included in official medical records and that hospitals notify family caregivers prior to a patient's transfer or discharge.

What U.S. States Have Enacted CARE Act laws

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia have enacted similar CARE Act laws.

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