Caregivers deserve a helping hand

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Idaho boasts an army of volunteer caregivers, but according to a 2017 Idaho AARP survey, you might put this face on the poster.

The caregiver is a woman (58 percent), 55 or older (78 percent) who works full- or part-time while providing care (57 percent). Sheís providing care because she a) doesnít want her loved one to be moved out of his or her home or b) canít afford any other option.

Sheís stressed out emotionally (64 percent) and tapped out financially (31 percent).

And sheís got one big, beautiful heart.

The stateís AARP movers and shakers are traveling statewide to promote a bill destined for the 2018 legislative session called the Idaho Family Caregiver Act. Key to the bill is a provision that requires hospital staff to provide caregivers instruction on many aspects of taking care of a loved one that many of us wouldnít instinctively know. These include giving shots, managing medications, changing dressings on wounds, even how to safely move the patient from one place to another. Kootenai Health already provides these services as a matter of standard operating procedure.

The Idaho Family Caregiver Act has a strong financial benefit in that one of the goals is to reduce the times patients need to be readmitted to hospitals, which is expensive for patient and hospital alike. But itís also meant to ratchet that stress level down significantly.

According to AARP, Idaho has some 200,000 caregivers. A magnet for retiring seniors, the Gem State has a golden opportunity to join 36 others in adopting this compassionate, fiscally sensible legislation. Because weíre graying faster than many states, the need to better prepare family caregivers to safely help their seniors return home after a hospital stay is particularly timely.

The Press applauds AARPís continued spirit of volunteer assistance. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with 38 million members (185,000 in Idaho) can often be found providing help where itís most needed. During tax time, thatís free AARP tax preparation help. The organization also conducts Scam Jams statewide, alerting seniors to fraud and identity theft threats, and supports programs assisting vulnerable veterans.

But itís hard to imagine a better cause today than helping our stateís caregivers, who donít always fit the profile sketched at the beginning of this editorial. AARP officials visiting The Press on Thursday provided examples of caregivers across the spectrum, including an 88-year-old Athol resident who takes care of her 65-year-old daughter. Talk about stress.

Thanks to AARP, now weíre also talking about solutions.

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