BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Critical help for nearly a million family caregivers across Louisiana will soon arrive thanks to Governor John Bel Edwards.
Gov. Edwards today signed the Louisiana Family Caregiver Act (Senate Bill 376) to better support family caregivers as they safely care for their loved one at home after being released from the hospital. The legislation, brought by Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb of Baton Rouge and unanimously passed by the Louisiana Legislature, will officially take effect August 1st, 2016.
The bill, which has already passed in some form in 22 other states across the country, ensures hospital patients can designate a family caregiver and requires hospitals to offer that caregiver instruction and demonstrations of medical tasks they are expected to provide for their loved ones at home.
“Family caregivers are performing very complicated tasks for loved ones with chronic illness, and these include managing medication, preparing food for special diets, wound cleaning, dealing with monitors and other special equipment,” said Denise Bottcher, State Director, AARP Louisiana. “Most older adults who receive assistance at home rely exclusively on unpaid family caregivers for help.”
More than 660,000 family caregivers in Louisiana help their loved ones to live independently at home where they want to be. Estimates suggest that family caregivers in Louisiana provide 615 million hours of unpaid care valued at about $6.47 billion annually.
“Family caregivers carry a huge responsibility. Caring for a loved one is already physically and emotionally draining without the stress of figuring out complicated medical tasks on your own,” said Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge. “SB 376 will advance common sense steps that would make a world of difference to family caregivers.”
“The better prepared family caregivers are when they take their loved ones home from the hospital, the smoother the transition will be for both patient and caregiver and the better the health outcome,” said Andrew Muhl, Advocacy Director, AARP Louisiana.
The Family Caregiver Act, which has the support of groups like the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Hospital Association, would give families the support they need to care for their loved one at home.
“The LHA and Louisiana hospitals strongly believe that the best patient outcomes are achieved when family caregivers have the tools and knowledge necessary to properly care for their loved ones after they are released from the hospital,” said Greg Waddell, Vice President of Legal, Governmental and Regulatory Affairs, Louisiana Hospital Association.
The bill, which could reduce costly hospital readmissions, requires designated family caregivers be identified and included in the patient’s official medical record and that hospitals notify family caregivers prior to a patient’s transfer or discharge.
“Before I got power of attorney for my dad, the doctor wouldn’t tell me anything. I didn’t know his medicine. I didn’t know what he needed to eat, for his nutrition. They wouldn’t talk to me. They would only talk to him,” said Britnee Fergins, a caregiver from Shreveport who cares for her 91-year-old father diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The situation makes it especially hard for Mr. Fergins to remember what the doctors had told him and have to relay the information accurately to his daughter.
The bill enjoys broad support among Louisiana voters 50 and older. More than 90% think hospitals should “explain and demonstrate” to family caregivers medical tasks they’ll have to perform when their loved ones are sent home from the hospital, a 2014 AARP survey found.
Posted on Wed, June 8, 2016
by The Lafourche Gazette