Proposed Bill Would Provide Caregivers with Information, Training Needed to Care for Family Members

caregiver.jpgA new bill heading to the New Jersey State Senate for consideration would make it easier for caregivers to attend to patients upon their release from the hospital and, hopefully, cut down on the number of re-admissions.(1)

The bill, which won approval by the State Assembly last month, would allow patients to designate a specific caregiver to assist them upon their return home. The hospital then would be required to include the name of the designated caregiver and his or her contact information on the patients’ medical charts. Furthermore, hospitals would be required to inform designated caregivers of their patients’ pending discharge and provide details of the patients’ post discharge care instructions along with any training needed to carry out those instructions. Hospitals would also be required to provide caregivers with the opportunity to ask questions regarding their charges’ care; provide answers to those questions; and provide a contact qualified to answer additional questions that may arise at a later time.(1)

Statistics show that 69% of discharged patients did not receive a visit from a health care professional once they left the hospital. Their care is often left to a family member or close friend. Most of these caregivers receive little or no training on administering this care, according to AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), a chief proponent of the proposed bill. Despite the lack of training, statistics show that 46% of these caregivers perform tasks usually carried out by a nurse or other medical professional, and 78% are responsible for managing medications, which could include giving injections or administering intravenous fluids.(2)

Lack of proper training can often lead to patients being readmitted to the hospital rather than reaching a full recovery at home. The cost of these re-admissions is high, accounting for about $17 billion in Medicare funds annually on a national level.(2)

AARP has been pushing for nationwide caregiver legislation. To date, Oklahoma is the only state to have such a bill. Supporters of the proposed bill feel New Jersey would benefit from its adoption due to the State’s growing number of older residents and others with long-term medical needs.(1)

According to AARP, New Jersey was ranked 42 out of 50 states in the percentage of caregivers who say they have access to the support needed to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities. A 2009 survey conducted by AARP disclosed that 75.6% of caregivers in New Jersey received the help they needed, as opposed to 78.2% of caregivers on a national average.(3)

This is the second bill introduced in recent months aimed at helping New Jersey caregivers meet their responsibilities. The other bill being considered would provide a State tax credit of up to $675 for caregivers to help offset the cost of providing care for an older or sick family member. AARP estimates there are 1.75 million caregivers in New Jersey and the care they provide is valued at about $13 billion.(4)

Although Medicaid covers many at-home services for elderly patients, out-of-pocket costs for caregivers averages more than $5,500 and covers such items as food, household items, prescription copayments, medical care, transportation costs and travel expenses. While the proposed tax credit would not completely offset these costs, it would be of some help, particularly to those caregivers who are already struggling financially.(4)

The proposed tax credit would be limited to caregivers with incomes of $100,000 or less if married and filing jointly ($50,000 if single or filing separate tax returns). The income limit for the person being cared for would be $20,000 if married and filing jointly or $13,000 if single.(4)

New Jersey has been making efforts to move away from institutional care for its elderly residents and others with long-term needs and putting more emphasis on providing the needed care in the patient’s home or community. Supporters of the above-mentioned bills hope efforts such as these help ease the challenges faced by those friends and family members willing to take on the responsibility of providing this care.(4)

(1) http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/05/nj_assembly_advances_caregiver_bill_for_patients_discharged_from_the_hospital.html
(2) http://www.politickernj.com/73342/assembly-approves-mu-oz-bill-reduce-hospital-re-admissions
(3) http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/05/13/helping-those-who-help-hospital-patients-after-they-head-home/

(4) http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/03/19/providing-relief-to-home-caregivers-back-on-legislative-agenda-in-trenton/