Implementation of New Jersey's Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act marks a watershed moment for elderly care in the Garden State and a growing trend nationally, according to advocates at AARP-New Jersey.

medical monitors, hospital

The law, signed last November by Governor Christie and supported through the Legislature by shore Senator Robert Singer, requires hospitals to identify designated family caregivers for patients, notify them when a patient is either moved or released, and supply detailed post-hospital care instructions.

AARP estimates that the CARE Act reaches about 1.75 million family caregivers around the Garden State. Ten states now have some form of the legislation on the books and 28 more are considering implementation.

According to AARP-NJ Vice President Elaine Ryan, the measure carries special value for caregivers tasked with providing medical aid that might be entirely new for them.

"That could be things like how to give an injection, how to do wound care, how to manage medication," Ryan said.

The law also changes the dynamics of the relationships between hospitals and the family members or guardians with whom they communicate.

"It empowers family caregivers," Ryan said. "At the outset of a hospital stay, it keeps them informed. Throughout that stay, it gives them notice prior to discharge. And information is power. The CARE Act plugs family caregivers in."

AARP's "Home Alone" report, issued several years ago, delineated the plight of family members struggling to provide emergency care or maintenance with little or no guidance. "A mistake in care can cause re-hospitalization, and it often does occur for older individuals, with some frequency," Ryan said.

"It's [also] a win for the hospitals, who frankly don't want to see people come back through the...doors because their care has been inadequate," Ryan said.

On a national level, a 2014 Forbes Magazine article dwells on the potential in all 50 states for the law now in place in New Jersey.

AARP has created a downloadable wallet card containing bullet-point itemization of rights available to caregivers under the CARE Act.

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