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Caregiver Bill Aims to Deliver on "There's No Place Like Home"

Public News Service

A bill moving through the Kentucky Legislature would establish ways to get family caregivers more involved so their aging loved ones can continue living at home.

The Kentucky Family Caregivers Act, Senate Bill 129, makes it a uniform requirement that hospitals contact a designated family caregiver upon a person's discharge, explaining and demonstrating to them medical tasks they may have to perform – such tasks as managing medications, injections and wound care.

Charlotte Whittaker, a retiree from Hartford who was her late mother's caregiver, says the legislation makes sense.

"If they're directly involved with the discharge planning, when that person comes home and they're working with social workers, I just see, hopefully, folks that will not have to go back into the hospital real soon," said Whittaker. "I see lives being saved with this bill, I really do."

There are an estimated 650,000 family caregivers in Kentucky, and according to AARP, those caregivers save the state around $7 billion dollars a year.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill last week, sending it to the House.

According to a 2015 AARP survey, 69 percent of care recipients did not have a home visit by a health-care professional after their hospital discharge, and many family caregivers said they received little or no training to perform care tasks.

During the 20 years she cared for her mother, Whittaker says she was able to help her elder stay in her own home until the last three weeks of her life. Her mom was 92 when she passed way.

"You know, I'm a senior, and I want to stay in my home as long as I can," she said. "I definitely feel like this will enable caregivers to take care of clients better at home than they would have before. There's just no place like home."

That also is one reason Whittaker says she volunteers for AARP Kentucky and has talked with lawmakers, urging them to support the bill.

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