Deanna was a single, working mother with two daughters in college when her mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

Over time, Deanna was forced to quit her job and take on more and more of her mother’s care as her father’s own health began to deteriorate and he fell deeper into despair about what was happening to his wife. After her Mom passed away, Deanna’s father was diagnosed with dementia and she began a second, 10-year long labor of love caring for him.

Deanna is not alone. Her story is one of many documented as part of the AARP’s I Heart Caregivers project.

According to the Legislative Commission on Aging, there are more than 500,000 Connecticut residents who provide care every day to their loved with tasks such as bathing, dressing, finances, transportation, and medical care. The total economic impact of this unpaid care is estimated to be $5.8 billion.

This silent army is the backbone of elder care in our state. Without the help of family caregivers, too many of our seniors would end up in costly institutions — often paid for by the state, through Medicaid.

Today, according to the AARP, the average family caregiver is a 49-year-old female taking care of an older woman, usually her mother; she does this for nearly five years. She will devote at least 20 hours a week to helping her loved one with tasks like bathing and dressing, meal preparation, transportation, and chores around the house. She also has a full or part-time job.

Many of these caregivers feel unprepared to perform the medical tasks necessary to keep their loved ones out of the hospital and in the community at home — where they want to be.

The Caregiver, Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act is designed to change that, and to empower and educate these individuals who work tirelessly to care for their loved ones.

The Act, which I am a proud supporter of, would require hospitals to:

1) provide each patient with the opportunity to designate a caregiver upon the patient’s admission to the hospital;

2) notify the designated caregiver if the patient is to be discharged to another facility or back to his or her home, and;

3) provide the caregiver with instructions on how to perform medication management, wound care, injections or other medical tasks for the patient when the patient returns home.

Family caregivers do remarkable things every day to care for their loved ones — but this labor of love is not without its challenges. More than three in 10 family caregivers are very or extremely emotionally stressed. That stress is, not surprisingly, increased for family caregivers who provide assistance for more than 21 hours a week, sacrifice time away from family and friends, or live with the loved one for whom they are caring.

As we try to rein in health care costs, reduce costly hospital readmissions and trips to the emergency room, passage of Connecticut’s CARE Act is paramount.

To read more stories like Deanna’s, or to share your own, visit www.IHeartCaregivers.org. To help support the CARE Act in Connecticut, contact your local legislator through the CGA website.

State Senator Tony Hwang is in his fourth term in the Connecticut General Assembly and first term as State Senator of the 28th District, which encompasses Fairfield, Easton, Newtown and portions of Weston and Westport.