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Taking CARE of the Caregiver

Being a family caregiver for a parent or grandparent can be a really tough responsibility.  Many caregivers help their loved one manage their medications and perform medical and nursing tasks for physical and cognitive conditions. Caregiving can also involve physical, emotional, and financial burdens to the family caregiver. The problem is that most of these family caregivers are providing these complex support services with little to no training, causing many recipients of the care to be admitted or readmitted to a hospital.  Providing better training for family caregivers will decrease rates for re-hospitalization, and provide more confidence and less stress for the family caregivers.  Fortunately, there was a law that was signed April 20th, 2016, that went into effect this April. The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act is intended to assist family members and other caregivers involved in providing post-hospital care.

What is required of the hospitals under the CARE Act:

  • To document a designated family caregiver.
  • To provide the caregiver with assistance by explaining and demonstrating medical tasks that will be utilized at home.
  • To inform the caregiver when their loved ones are being discharged from another facility or are returning home.
  • To explain to the caregiver (before the patient is discharged) instructions about the patient’s after-care assistance tasks necessary to maintain the patient’s ability to reside at home, for example: required medications, injections, wound care, and contact information for any health care, community resources, long-term care services and support services necessary to successfully carry out the patient’s discharge plan.

This process should help regulate health care costs and reduce hospital readmissions by ensuring family caregivers have the information and training they need to help care for their loved ones at home.

A child of the patient can be the caregiver, but does not have to be the Durable Health Care Power of Attorney; however, it is strongly encouraged.  A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney document names one agent that you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself. Having a designated person that you believe will best represent and care for you is helpful, but it is also important to have a backup agent. Having your Durable Health Care Power of Attorney and primary caregiver as the same person provides better continuity of care.

A limitation to the CARE Act is that it is only focused on the people who were in hospitals and then discharged; there are many care-recipients who are not hospitalized.  When a patient receives outpatient services, there is no training for family caregivers. Pre-discharge training is only for inpatient admissions. It also is important to note that some hospitals still may not follow through with this training because there are not any enforcement provisions or consequences in the event that a hospital fails to comply.

If you are a caregiver and desire free training, below is a resource that provides a wide variety of teachings on subjects such as safety and first aid, infection control, medications, and more.

Caregiving can be a complex task, but you should not feel alone. Help and resources are available; just don’t feel afraid to ask.

Abigail Lindquist, Intern