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Connecticut

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

  • Caregivers — who previously had to take time off work or be dependent on a network of helpers in order to give medications. They will now be able to leave home, "with peace of mind that somebody who is trained is there," said Jill Heidel, a Bethel retired registered nurse who lobbied for the law change.

In Connecticut, the estimated economic value of caregivers' unpaid contributions was approximately $5.8 billion in 2009, according to a PPI study released last year.

  • Registered nurses — who will be able to "get back to doing what they are qualified to do: attending to overall assessment and critical needs," said Heidel.
  • The state of Connecticut — which will save millions of dollars in Medicaid spending. A 2011 study in New Jersey found that the cost of having nurse-supervised home health aides give medications for a year was slightly less than the cost of four days in a nursing facility per beneficiary.

Extensive training required

To administer medications, home health aides must complete a 32-hour training program and pass a written and practical exam.

Registered nurses will still be the ones giving injections and administering medications to critically ill patients. Aides will only administer medications to chronically ill patients. The nurse must visit and assess the patient at least once a month.

To find Connecticut resources for caregivers, contact the Connecticut Association for Home Care & Hospice.

When you go to a home health agency, ask to see certification that the home health aide is properly trained to give medications, as well as references, federal and state criminal screenings and drug background reports. If they don't provide the information, go elsewhere.

For more information on and assistance with caregiving, go online to the AARP Caregiving Resource Center.

Beth Levine is a freelance writer living in Stamford, Conn.

Also of interest: Have a question? Ask the pharmacist.

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