Cost of care given
Idaho family caregivers provide unpaid care valued at an estimated $2 billion annually.
COEUR d’ALENE — Caregivers, help could be on the way.
The cavalry’s banner, hoisted by Idaho AARP, will be introduced in the 2018 legislative session. The bill is called the Idaho Family Caregiver Act, and AARP officials say the time is right for adoption.
“It used to be that the hospital took care of you until you could ride a horse home,” said Randy Simon, communications director for Idaho AARP, during a stop Thursday in Coeur d’Alene.
Not anymore. Now patients frequently leave the hospital for ongoing but untrained care at home, which can lead to unnecessary strife and even hospital readmission.
Simon and Tom Trail, a 16-year Republican state representative from Moscow and now volunteer AARP state president, said almost 200,000 Idahoans today care for an aging parent or loved one, helping them live independently in their own homes.
“It’s typically a married woman taking care of her mom,” Simon said.
“The stress is really overwhelming,” Trail added, pointing out that many caregivers must juggle work and other family responsibilities while caring for a loved one without the benefit of having had any medical training or background.
The Idaho Family Caregiver Act is designed to help ease the burden without any taxpayer expense. According to the bill:
• With the patient’s consent, the name of the family caregiver is recorded when a loved one is admitted to the hospital.
• That caregiver is notified if the loved one is to be discharged to another facility or back home.
• The facility must provide instructions for the medical tasks — such as medication management, wound care and moving the patient — that the family caregiver will need to perform at home.
Simon and Trail said adoption of the bill will lead to lower medical costs for care-givers, patients and for the hospitals them-selves. Trail cited a Univer-sity of Pitts-burgh study showing im- proved caregiver effectiveness reduces hospital readmissions by 25 percent. Hospitals are penalized for readmissions, and patients and their families also incur additional costs and inconveniences when that happens.
Simon noted that while Idaho ranks second in the nation for readmission rate — Utah is first — 1 in 8 Idaho patients leaving the hospital are still being readmitted. The trend isn’t likely to improve by itself, either, because our state is rapidly aging, he said.
Besides, even at No. 1, Utah recently adopted its version of the Caregiver Act, Simon pointed out.
According to Simon, similar legislation has passed in 36 states. Opposition has essentially been limited to members of hospital associations who see the requirements as unfunded mandates, he said.
The Idaho Family Caregiver Act is being sponsored by Sen. Lee Heider, a Republican from Twin Falls who serves as chair of the Health and Welfare Committee.