Senator O’Brien introduces CARE Act to support in-home caregivers

LANSING, Mich. – New legislation announced at a Wednesday press conference by State Senator Margaret O’Brien to help prepare and support in-home caregivers when providing assistance for loved ones after they leave the hospital was formally introduced in the Senate Thursday.

“It is important that we update health care policies that protect our most vulnerable,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Ensuring caregivers have the proper knowledge to care for their loved ones is essential.”

Senate Bill 352, or the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, would provide in-home caregivers who are designated by soon-to-be discharged patients with hospital-provided consultation and instruction for any after-care assistance tasks that do not require a licensed professional once a patient is released. Typical tasks include providing assistance with bathing and dressing, transportation, finances and more complex medical tasks, like administering wound care and medication injections.

The training is part of what the legislation calls a discharge plan. Hospitals would work with patients to develop a plan, which includes the designation and training of a caregiver for assistance with the basic activities of daily living. Plans must also include a description of all necessary after-care assistance tasks; contact information for any health care, community resources and long-term services and supports that may be needed; and contact information for a hospital employee who may respond to caretaker-related questions.

Additionally, the legislation would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to oversee and implement the CARE Act.

According to AARP, family caregiving is increasing in Michigan as baby boomers become older adults. The group’s research suggests Michigan has more than 2 million caregivers at any given time during a calendar year, providing 1.4 billion hours of free care to loved ones, which is valued at more than $15.5 billion.

“Family caregivers work hard to help their parents, spouses and other loved ones live at home, while trying to keep up with their own jobs and make ends meet,” said William McCarty, a member of AARP Michigan’s Executive Council. “The least we can do is provide these unsung heroes some of the information and training they need to carry out this noble mission.”

A 2013 study from New Jersey indicates the state’s hospitals reduced readmissions by 5,492 — 13 percent — after enacting similar legislation, which led to a cost savings of $52 million.

Michigan currently ranks 35th in the nation for its level of legal and system supports for family caregivers, according to AARP.

SB 352 was referred to the Senate Health Policy Committee for consideration.