Caregiving is a role many of us are pressed into without preparation. It can be overwhelming and exhausting, yet rewarding and fulfilling.
“Caregiving in the family usually comes with a phone call at three o’clock in the morning that says something is wrong with Mom, and the whole world changes. Most of us are not prepared for that,” said Gary Powell with The Caregiver Foundation.
In the United States, about 40 million people provide unpaid care to an ill or disabled adult.
The numbers in Hawaii are quickly growing.
“We have 154,000 unpaid family caregivers in Hawaii and if you paid them at the hourly rate, considering that the number of hours they perform at home, at the hourly rate of about $15, that adds up to about $2 billion, with a B, dollars per year,” said Bruce Bottorff with AARP Hawaii. “Nobody can substitute or make up for that type of care.”
It’s one reason advocates are pushing for legislation in 2016 that would help caregivers.
They say the proposed CARE Act legislation identifies steps hospitals can incorporate into their existing discharge procedures to improve patient transition from hospital to home.
“It simply would allow a person in the hospital to choose a caregiver and then have the hospital staff support that person, train that person and allow that person to be the point of care for the individual that were in the hospital,” Powell said.
Advocates say the proposed legislation doesn’t require money and hospitals would not be liable for instruction given to family caregivers. Eighteen states across the country have passed a similar law.
“These are fathers, sons, daughters, wives who are out of the goodness of their hearts helping their loved one stay independent at home for as long as possible,” said Bottorff.
“Caregivers don’t have a voice. It’s that simple. They’re too busy. They’re doing the job and there’s very little support,” Powell said.
Advocates say this bill would fill that void.