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Easing Caregiver's Burden

New Connecticut law allows home health aides, with proper training, to administer medications

Janet Ferracci-Carter poses for a portrait at her home in Southington, CT - Caregiving

Janet Ferracci-Carter helped AARP lobby for a law to allow trained home health aides to administer medications, a task previously reserved for registered nurses or specific family and friends. Photo by Michael Rubenstein

Late last year, Janet Ferracci-Carter, 68, of Southington, received a desperate call from her cousin Patty, 65, who lives in the same town.

"I need help. I don't know how I am going to be able to keep my promise," Patty cried.

See also: Caregiving Resource Center

Patty was taking care of her husband, Joe, 65, who was terminally ill with lymphoma. She had promised him he would not have to go into a nursing home. But Patty (who wishes to remain unidentified) immediately ran into a large problem: While the couple could afford a home health aide for eight hours a day, the aide was legally prohibited from administering medication, which Joe needed at least three times a day.

A restrictive law

According to Connecticut law at the time, only a nurse, which the couple could not afford on top of the aide, or specific family and friends were allowed to administer medications.

Even with an aide present, Patty could not leave the house: If Joe had a panic attack, he needed immediate medication. Ferracci-Carter and others took turns administering meds and, when the aide was not there, tending to Joe's other daily needs so Patty could run errands.

Ferracci-Carter stopped by daily. "We'd log in what medications he had been given and when, so Patty could follow," she recalled. "We did that for five months until Joe passed away last Memorial Day," Ferracci-Carter said. "If she had not had our help, I don't know what she would have done, or how she could have kept her promise."

During that experience, Ferracci-Carter joined AARP Connecticut in a successful lobbying effort to get the law changed. Registered nurses will soon begin training home health aides to administer medications. Starting Jan. 1, the trained home health aides will be able to give medications.

"By the end of June 2013, we expect to have 400 home health aides certified to administer medication," said Anne Foley, undersecretary of the state Office of Policy and Management.

The new law is expected to benefit:

  • Patients — who will be able to receive medications at home, rather than having to hire a registered nurse or move to a nursing home.

"Allowing nurses to delegate this task to a professional home care worker — who may already be providing services in the home — saves money, provides a needed break for family members and supports an individual's choice to remain in their home as they age," said Susan C. Reinhard, director of the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI).

Next page: Caregivers can leave home with peace of mind. »

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