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N.D. Has New Law to Help Family Caregivers

Caregivers, AARP, North Dakota Hospital Association, CARE Act

Submitted by Dena Kemmet Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Thanks to AARP and the North Dakota Hospital Association, a new law called the CARE Act is making a difference for family caregivers.

Below is information about the new law, shared with permission from AARP North Dakota:

The CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act helps family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.

The law ensures hospitals:

  • Identify and involve the patient's family caregiver throughout the hospital stay.
  • Keep that caregiver informed of their loved one’s discharge plans.
  • Provide education and instruction of aftercare tasks – such as medication management, injections, and wound care – that the family caregiver will perform at home.

More than 62,000 North Dakotans care for older parents, spouses or other loved ones, helping them to live independently at home. These family caregivers have a huge responsibility, and this new law will make life a little bit easier for them.

Perhaps most surprising it that as America's population ages, 7 percent of family caregivers were age 75 or older, a share that has gone up steadily in the past two decades. Often the recipient is a spouse with dementia or heart disease who needs a high level of care for 34 hours or more a week, and the caregiver has been providing that help for more than five years.

Although a majority of caregivers claim they had a friend or relative available to confide in and have contact with socially, almost 1 in 10 said they had no one to talk to about private matters and 1 in 5 said they had no one to call for help.

November was National Family Caregivers Month. It is a time to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. We may have turned the calendar to December, but it’s not too late to honor the caregivers we know.

Another resource to help caregivers is the Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC) program. It’s an evidence-based educational workshop designed to help family caregivers take better care of themselves and feel more confident in their ability to care for their family members. North Dakota State University Extension offers the PTC program through extensive partnerships with local organizations.

The Powerful Tools for Caregivers program is available for two audiences: caregivers of adults with chronic conditions and parents of children with special needs.

In the six weekly classes, caregivers develop a wealth of self-care tools to reduce personal stress, change negative self-talk, communicate their needs to family members and health-care or service providers, communicate more effectively in challenging situations, recognize the messages in their emotions, deal with difficult feelings and make tough caregiving decisions.

Caregivers need to focus on their own needs and desires and practice self-care. Doing so will allow them to continue the important job of caregiving.

For more information on the PTC program, family caregiving educational lessons or other resources, contact the NDSU Extension office in Beulah at 873-5195.

Source: Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension gerontology specialist

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