Legislation signed on Tuesday by Gov. Kim Reynolds will enable family caregivers in Iowa to better care for their family members following a hospitalization, say advocates. 

The 2019 Iowa CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act) — outlines “common-sense steps” to help Iowa’s more than 317,000 family caregivers when their relatives are in the hospital and as they transition home, AARP Iowa said in a press release. 

“This day has been a long time coming for family caregivers across the state, who have pushed for a statewide standard to help ensure family caregivers are better prepared to care for loved ones in the home following hospitalization,” said AARP State Volunteer President Chuck Betts, who has been a family caregiver for his adult daughter for the past 50 years. 

The 2019 Iowa CARE Act features four important provisions: 
  • The name of the family caregiver is recorded when their loved one is admitted into a hospital, if a patient chooses to designate one.
  • The designated family caregiver is notified when their loved one is to be discharged back home.
  • The hospital discusses the caregivers’ abilities and limitations.
  • The hospital discusses the patient’s care needs at home and provides an explanation of the medical tasks to be performed – such as medication management, injections and wound care.

In late 2018, AARP released the results of a statewide caregiving survey of 800 registered voters age 40 and older across Iowa, showing that more than 95 percent of current family caregivers in Iowa believe it is "extremely" or "very" important that they receive instruction on medical tasks they need to provide for their loved one at home upon being discharged from the hospital.  

An Iowa Hospital Association representative said her organization appreciated working with AARP Iowa to include best practices that have been identified by IHA members. "We were pleased to work on [legislation] to meet the needs of patients and our hospitals," said Becky Anthony, a senior vice president with the association. 

Iowa Hospital Association officials last year had said the legislation was unnecessary because the steps outlined in the legislation are already required by Medicare regulations that hospitals must follow. 

AARP Iowa contends that no federal laws, rules or regulations, including those for Medicare, define the steps hospitals must take so that family caregivers are engaged in their loved ones’ care.

The legislation goes into effect July 1.