Caring for Montana’s caregivers

Guest Commentary
By Tim Summers
State Director for AARP Montana

Family caregivers are an invaluable part of our state. Over 118,000 family caregivers provide about $1.4 billion in unpaid care.  Their commitment allows loved ones to stay at home, with their families in their own communities as they age.
As the state director for AARP here in Montana I believe that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to this silent army of family caregivers who quietly go about taking care of their loved ones. That is why AARP is strongly supportive of the Montana Caregiver Act bill, that will be introduced in the 2017 Montana legislative session by Representative Geraldine Custer (R) of Forsyth. 
The Montana Caregiver Act is a common sense solution to help those caring for their loved ones so they can live independently, as well as help provide assistance and education to the over 118,000 caregivers that work tirelessly throughout the state.
This bill ensures that family caregivers have support as their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.  Key provisions of the bill include 1) Designating and recording your name on the medical record of your loved ones as the primary caregiver; 2) informing you when your loved one is to be discharged to another facility or back home; and 3) giving you education and instruction on the medical tasks you will need to perform at home, like managing medication or changing bandages.
This proposal is a win-win—caregivers will be more confident and competent, and hospitals will have better medical results and face fewer financial penalties when fewer patients are readmitted with complications due to inadequate home care. As a result, many hospital associations in states across the country, including neighboring states, have supported similar measures. We hope our hospital associations will join us in supporting Montana’s caregivers.
Since many caregivers have the responsibility of a full-time job, along with caring for loved ones, caregiving becomes a very stressful and time-consuming responsibility. By eliminating some of the stress that comes with being a caregiver and providing assistance with hospitals and their transition back home, this bill will allow for caregivers to free up time for themselves as well as their loved ones.
This is increasingly important as many caregivers dedicate so much time to caring for their loved ones that they forget to care for themselves. They push aside much needed relaxation and “me” time needed to allow them to focus on their own health and well-being, both of which are essential when it comes to being a caregiver. The Montana Caregiver Act can help caregivers be better at caregiving, as well as focus on keeping themselves healthy. 
If passed, Montana will become the 34th state (including Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to enact this type of legislation. AARP Montana encourages you to reach out to your legislators and ask them to support the Montana Caregiver Act, sponsored by Representative Custer. 
Tim Summers is the State Director for AARP Montana. In that role he oversees the activity of the state office including protecting Montanans from fraud through the AARP Fraud Watch Network, representing the interests of the 50-plus at the State Capitol in Helena, protecting the health and financial security of older Montanans and engaging people in communities all across the state.


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