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Mixed Results in ND Legislature for Family Caregivers

The North Dakota Legislature passed one piece of legislation aimed at helping caregivers this session.(Public.Resource.Org/Flickr)
The North Dakota Legislature passed one piece of legislation aimed at helping caregivers this session.(Public.Resource.Org/Flickr)
May 4, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. — Family caregivers in the Peace Garden State went 1-for-2 in bills supporting their work from the North Dakota Legislature. The bills were designed to help the state's roughly 62,000 family caregivers.

The first, House Bill 1038, upped the resources for caregivers to get rest from their work. That bill was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in April.

Mike Chaussee, advocacy director for AARP North Dakota, said that bill was crucial for caregivers. He told the story of one caregiver living in a rural part of the state.

"We have a man who has been up to testify and tell us about his story,” Chaussee said. "He lives in a rural area with his wife, who has multiple sclerosis, and he literally said he hadn't had a day off from that care-giving work in 15 years."

The legislation allows the Department of Human Services to apply for a $200,000 grant to help provide caregivers with respite care. It also improves outreach.

The other legislation, House Bill 1039 and later Senate Bill 2215, would have ensured that family caregivers received information on medical tasks from hospitals upon discharge of a patient. That bill failed in the House both times.

Opposition to the Caregiver Advise Record and Enable, or CARE, Act said it would have added too much regulation. They claimed the rules would result in an increase in hospitals' liability, and added that hospitals already are helping caregivers.

But Chaussee said an AARP North Dakota survey found that 30 percent of caregivers did not receive information at discharge; and they often are performing sensitive medical tasks. He said similar bills are common throughout the United States.

"The bill has passed in 35 states at this point in time - a very similar bill,” he said. "So we think it does a lot of good at AARP and will continue to push for it."

AARP North Dakota will hold a legislative wrap-up webinar on May 17 at 1:30 p.m. North Dakotans can find out more about the webinar at AARP.org/ND.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND