This is a guest post written by Aditi Ramaswami, Public Policy Coordinator, Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved.
Every few years, I try to pay a visit to India, the birthplace of my parents. It strengthens my connection to my cultural roots and allows me to spend invaluable time with relatives. It’s usually a lighthearted time, but that wasn’t the case when I visited as a 15-year old. I remember it vividly—around 3am on the Monday following a memorable Thanksgiving weekend at home, I awoke to the sound of my dad sobbing at the news that his father had passed away.
As we made the 23-hour journey to India, I reflected on the last time I had seen my grandpa. It was a couple years prior when I had sat by his bed as my grandma coaxed him into a calm enough state to eat without choking on his food. My grandpa lived a good life—he was highly respected and loved by all who had the good fortune of knowing him—until Alzheimer’s stole from him the thing that binds us to those we feel closest to, his memory. I still recall how my grandma devotedly stayed by his side until the end of his suffering, and I can only imagine how the stress of it all affected her, despite the brave face she wore. My grandmother, without hesitation, sacrificed everything to be my grandfather’s caregiver.
At CCMU, we recognize the critical role that family caregivers play in our health care workforce, which is why we support policies that help them perform caregiving tasks to the best of their ability while avoiding burnout. This session, there were a few key pieces of legislation that work to this end. They include:
- House Bill 1033 – Strategic Planning Group on Aging
This bill would create a strategic action planning group to develop a comprehensive, long-term action plan for Colorado’s aging population through the year 2030. With the rapid increase in our aging population, studies show that long-term services and supports will require more family caregivers than are available. One of the goals of this strategic group is to examine the impacts of our aging demographic on family caregiving and identify sustainable options for long-term care, services, and supports.
- House Bill 1233 – Respite Care Study Task Force
This bill would create a task force to study the dynamics of supply and demand with regard to respite care services in Colorado. This is vital because respite care, or the short-term provision of care to a patient in a facility outside of the home, can prevent caregiver burnout by providing them temporary relief from their duties as a caregiver.
- House Bill 1242 – Patient Caregiver Designation Hospital Requirement
This bill would enable a hospital to allow a patient or a patient’s legal guardian to designate a caregiver within 24 hours of the patient’s admission. The hospital would need to provide the designated caregiver with post-discharge instructions to care for the patient. This legislation is important because it allows our caregivers to be better informed, which not only improves at-home care for the patient while helping to prevent costly readmissions, but it also makes the job of families and caregivers easier in challenging times.
Thinking about the final days of my grandfather’s life still saddens me, but my sadness is as much for my grandmother as it is for him. Undoubtedly, he was in pain, but her pain—laced with profound love—was just as real, and I saw it in everything she did to put him at ease before leaving this world. All of her time and energy was dedicated to him, as is the case for many of our nation’s 42.1 million family caregivers. They work tirelessly to provide home-based care, which makes it easier for patients to live and age in a more dignified and comfortable manner. Family caregivers are crucial to our health care system, and we must provide all the resources and support we can to those who—like my grandmother—selflessly assume the role.