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  • Law to improve well-being of older Mainers goes into effect Oct. 15

    Measure allows caregivers to have vital information 

     A law to help Maine seniors by allowing them to designate a caregiver who can access medical information important to their well-being goes into effect Oct. 15.

    The law, introduced by Rep. Drew Gattine, allows a patient admitted to a hospital to designate a caregiver whose contact information must be entered into the patient’s medical records and who must be able to participate, at the patient’s request, in discharge planning.

    “Many of us have helped care for the people we love, whether it’s cooking a meal, feeding a cat or helping out with laundry,” said Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. “When medical issues arise, the stakes are higher. Family caregivers play a critical role in making sure that a loved one’s transition home is successful. Given the right level of instruction, caregivers play a critical role in assuring that aftercare needs are met and healing can continue.”

    Under the law, if the patient or patient’s legal guardian provides written consent to release medical information to the designated caregiver, the hospital is required to notify the caregiver prior to the patient’s being discharged or transferred, consult with the caregiver as to the patient’s discharge plan and provide the caregiver any necessary instruction in providing aftercare to the patient if the patient is discharged to the patient’s residence.

    Family caregivers in Maine provided 165 million hours of care – worth an estimated $2.2 billion – to their parents, spouses, partners and other adult loved ones in 2013, according to AARP Public Policy Institute’s new report, Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update.

    “Effective caregivers also have the potential to save health care dollars by cutting down on readmissions,” said Gattine. “This law provides much-needed support to our seniors.”

    Rich Livingston, president of AARP Maine, testified in favor of the legislation at its public hearing in April. 

    “Almost half of family caregivers perform medical or nursing tasks for their loved ones with multiple chronic physical and cognitive conditions,” said Livingston. “Three out of four caregivers who provide these medical or nursing tasks manage medications, including administering intravenous fluids and injections. Yet most family caregivers report that they received little or no training to perform these tasks. Because there are simply not enough professional homecare workers, or resources to pay for them or pay them adequately, family caregivers are often the only way that many older Mainers are able to remain largely independent.”

    Gattine is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and represents part of Westbrook.