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AARP focused on family caregivers

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More than half of New Jerseyans age 40 and older have helped care for a sick or elderly relative that was recently discharged from the hospital, according to a new survey by AARP, which is backing two bills in Trenton to support these volunteer caregivers.

The Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) bill (A2955) passed in the Assembly last month. It will let patients admitted to the hospital identify a caregiver who will provide assistance when they return home. The hospital would be required to explain to the designated caregiver what the patient needs are and provide some training.

AARP is also backing a related bill (A1855) to provide a tax credit to cover some of the caregiver’s expenses, such as modifying the home for the returning patient.  It provides a maximum credit of $675 a year for couples whose income does not exceed $100,000, or $50,000 for single people.

The New Jersey Hospital Association supports the legislation, but is recommending a few changes, according to Randy Minniear, senior vice president of the New Jersey Hospital Association.

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Minniear said some of the bill language is “inconsistent with existing federal and state regulations. And some language could create operational issues within the hospital that could actually delay discharges for patients that are ready to go home. Those are the things we’re trying to work through with the sponsor, and they’ve been good, constructive discussions.”

He said: “In general, we share the goals of the CARE Act to support patients and their caregivers to make sure they’re well prepared for the post-discharge follow-up that is necessary for any patient’s recovery. That type of follow-up support and family engagement is an important part of hospitals’ ongoing efforts to reduce hospital readmissions.”

“Caregivers have an incredibly challenging job once their loved ones get out of hospital,” said AARP spokesman Jeff Abramo. “Some do a really good job, but some are not well prepared. What we are saying is there needs to be a consistent level of education and best practices, such as about how to dispense medication — so caregivers are armed with as much ammunition as possible to get (patients) healthy and keep them home.”

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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