Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Jeanne Schultz Afuvai became a family caregiver when her husband suffered a stroke that led to heart and kidney problems and left him unable to swallow.
For nearly 10 years, he was in and out of the hospital, and each time it was stressful. Even after her husband left the hospital, she had to perform the medical tasks needed after discharge.
“It’s an emotional and confusing time, especially when your loved one is being discharged and it ends up being a complex medical case with several things wrong. It’s very difficult to take it all in,” Schultz Afuvai said. “Not only did I have to learn how to use a feeding tube, but I had to watch how much water I needed to give him because of his kidney and heart problems and learn about the effects of his medication.”
AARP Hawai‘i helped get the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act passed to help caregivers like Schultz Afuvai. The act will become law on July 1. It gives caregivers and patients three rights when a loved one is admitted to the hospital and discharged.
1) The patient can designate a family caregiver on their medical record.
2) The hospital must notify the family caregiver before the patient is discharged or transferred to another facility.
3) The hospital must offer you instruction on the medical tasks you will need to perform at home after the patient is discharged.
You can get a free wallet card with your rights as a caregiver by calling 866-295-7282 or going to http://action.aarp.org/careHI. Keep the card in your wallet next to your insurance information so that you’ll know your rights in an emergency.
The 154,000 family caregivers in Hawai‘i provide an estimated 144 million hours of care — worth an estimated $2.1 billion — to parents, spouses, children and other adult loved ones.
There are two pieces of legislation before Congress to help caregivers. The Credit for Caregiving Act would offer a federal tax credit of $3,000 to family caregivers to help offset their costs. AARP also supports the RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage) Family Caregivers Act, which would create an advisory council to recommend a national strategy to recognize and support family caregivers.
Education and training also helps. AARP Hawaii is putting on three Saturday workshops for caregivers on June 24 with Catholic Charities at its facility on Ke‘eaumoku and Nehoa streets in Honolulu. Other workshops are scheduled for July 8 at the Church of the Holy Cross in Hilo, and for July 15 at Maui Community College in Kahului. All of these workshops are free.
Additionally, the annual “Aging in Place” conference takes place on Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Ala Moana Hotel. Go to aarp.org/hi for details and to register for the workshops and conference.
Caregivers are unsung heroes who sacrifice selflessly to help others — we should do what we can to support them.
Visit AARP Hawaii here
Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawaii since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.