Caring for the family caregiver is becoming a focus of the individual states. The family caregiver is the single largest pillar of the long term care system providing $450 billion dollars of unpaid care each year. There are 42 million family caregivers in the US that provide care at home, keeping their family members out of alternative settings, such as nursing homes.
While we are living longer, we are not living healthier. The family caregiver is providing tasks such as bathing and dressing, and more. The duties of the family caregiver include complex tasks dressing changes, monitoring complex or specialized equipment, wound care and managing medications such as IV’s and injections. This care, once done only by medical professionals, is now expected, with little to no training or support by caregivers.
Surprisingly, 69% of family caregivers polled in a survey did not have even a visit from a home health care professional after discharge from the hospital. Sadly, most hospitals are not providing education and live training on simple things such as transferring, medication management or wound care. Many times, the family caregiver is given a discharge paper with instructions and no follow up.
States Are Caring for the Family Caregiver…
The good news is, that the several states are making changes to support the family caregiver. In November of 2014, Arizona was the first state to enact the CARE Act ( Caregiver Advise, Record Enable). New Jersey was next.
Bills are currently under consideration in Oklahoma and Hawaii.
What are the key elements of the CARE Act?
- Designation of a caregiver in the hospital record
- Notification of the caregiver in a reasonable time prior to discharge
- Review of the discharge plan
- Demonstration by the caregiver that the care can be provided.
The Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations supports that the implementation of the CARE act will improve both the caregiver and patient hospital experience.
The CARE Act applies to all hospitalized patients, including the frail elderly patient with multiple chronic needs. These patients account for the majority of unnecessary readmissions to the hospital. These readmissions cost Medicare $ 17 billion a year.
While the CARE Act will not change the fact that the care will still be provided by the unpaid family caregiver, it will encourage and provide a system for enhanced caregiver support.
Caregiver support will help encourage better outcomes for all.