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AARP survey looks at in-home care for the elderly by family members

AARP has released a study of family members who care for their elderly or ill parents.

The study is called “Valuing the Invaluable.” It outlines possible ways to help the unpaid family care-givers. And it comes just as a North Dakota Legislative Interim committee will start studying that issue.

The AARP study says millions of Americans provide that in-home care.

“Family caregivers are critical,," said AARP vice-president Susan Reinhard during a conference call with reporters. "And they’re becoming increasingly in shorter supply.”

Reinhard says many of those volunteer caregivers have outside jobs – but still do what they can to provide care. Reinhard calls it a “Home Alone” situation.

“Because they get little help, they’re stressed," Reinhard said. "They’re worried about making mistakes. They don’t know where to go for help.”

“People need a break,” said AARP vice president Elaine Ryan. “Family caregiver hours are 24-7, and they need some opportunity to be able to refuel and take that break.”

Reinhard says the study shows the need for respite care – and for other services.

“So we’re not talking about substituting for caregivers through services, but trying to put in place more support, so they can do both their caregiving and their jobs," Reinhard said.

AARP is advocating for such things as tax credits for family caregivers, as well as employers allowing more flexibility for personal leave. The organization has also proposed legislation – dubbed  the “CARE Act” – which would require hospitals and doctors to train the caregivers on how to give medications.

Ryan says many elderly patients have had to go back into the hospital within 30 days of discharge.

“And many of those re-admissions are because of medication mistakes and medical mistakes, that family caregivers just aren’t equipped to be able to do," said Ryan.

The “CARE Act” was considered by the 2015 North Dakota Legislature, but was turned into a study. The interim Human Services Committee will be looking at the while issue of family caregivers. Rep. Kathy Hogan (D-Fargo) will chair that study committee.

“And because we have a significant aging population, and most of that care is family care, this is a huge challenge and opportunity for us," said Hogan.

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