MADISON, Wis. - New polling shows that Wisconsinites care about caregivers. Eight-in-10 voters in an AARP statewide survey support components of the CARE Act (Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable), which would help define the steps hospitals must take to ensure a caregiver is educated and engaged in the care of a patient upon release.
Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, says that's critical information that more than a third of caregivers polled said they are not receiving. "That was a big concern for us," Dicks states. "And voters said that the hospital should instruct people on the medical task, and interestingly enough, the percentage there was 94%. You don't often get 94% of everybody to agree about anything." Wisconsin is one of only a handful of states that do not have a law similar to the CARE Act in place.
The survey also found 89% of voters favor a new state income tax credit to help family caregivers who incur expenses for the care and support of a loved one. The Credit for Caring Act (SB 126) would create such a credit, and will be considered along with the CARE Act during the fall state legislative session. Wisconsin caregivers provide an estimated 538 million hours of unpaid care each year, and spend close to $7,000 annually out of pocket for expenses related to the caregiving of a loved one.
Dicks says many also are employed full-time, raising children and running their own household. "The family caregiver is really a very overlooked and underappreciated part of what happens to people when they age or when they have disabilities," she points out. "We can do more to support them, and I'm hoping these two bills will do that."
In the survey, more than half of current and former caregivers said they felt stressed emotionally due to caregiving responsibilities, as well as trying to balance a job and family.