To recognize their work to support family caregivers in Rhode Island, AARP names Senator Roger Picard and Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy 2016 “Capitol Caregivers.” These elected officials have advanced policies to help family caregivers who are making it possible for older Rhode Islanders to live independently at home—where they want to be.
“AARP thanks these members of the General Assembly for championing passage of legislation that supports caregivers,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “They provided integral leadership to pass bills in 2016 and helped make the huge responsibilities of family caregivers in Rhode Islanders a little bit easier.”
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Sen. Picard and Rep. Kennedy join former Senate President Teresa Paiva, Weed House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Senators Gayle L. Goldin and Joshua Miller and Representatives Eileen S. Naughton and Joseph M. McNamara who were named 2015 Capitol Caregivers last March.
Senator Picard is honored for his sponsorship of 2016 legislation formally known as “An Act Relating to Towns and Cities – Zoning Ordinances.” The new law allows the owner of an owner-occupied single family home to build an accessory dwelling unit to accommodate a family member who is 62 or older without obtaining a special permit from the town or city in which the property is located. The owner will still need to meet setback and other local requirements.
The legislation addresses the projected shortage of housing for senior citizens. Supporters believed that accessory dwelling units could be a good and affordable alternative to assisted living residences or nursing homes but local zoning ordinances imposed too many barriers for families to build this type of housing. The new law streamlines the requirements and makes them more consistent.
Rep. Kennedy is recognized for his sponsorship of the Telemedicine Coverage Act, which paves the way to easier access to the medical help that caregivers need while at the same time letting doctors dispense proper medical assistance, through the use of technology, without leaving their location.
The Act will allow doctors and patients to use technology, where appropriate, to see and talk to each other even though the patient is not in the doctor’s office. Telemedicine can be another tool that a doctor can use to help patients to stay healthy, recover from illness, or continue to live in the best way that is medically possible.
Telemedicine holds the promise of allowing all of us to get help for ourselves and our loved ones in ways that we have not been able to in the past.
Family caregivers carry a huge responsibility. According to AARP’s Public Policy Institute, at any time during the year, an estimated 148,000 Rhode Island caregivers step up to provide 142 million hours of care for an aging parent or loved one, helping them to live independently in their own homes. Based on this 2009 data, the care that these family caregivers provide is valued at nearly $1.9 billion per year.
They help with bathing and dressing, meal preparation, managing finances, transportation, grocery shopping and more. Today, many family caregivers even perform medical tasks like wound care, injections, and complex medication management.
“Family caregivers are the backbone of Rhode Island’s care system,” added Connell. “And they need our support. And a very important component of meeting their needs stems from legislative leaders who seize the opportunity to make a difference.”