How Does the CARE Act Change New York Hospital Discharges?

Being a patient in a hospital can be an extremely stressful experience, and many patients are eager to be released back home, however studies have found that poorly-planned or executed hospital discharges can be counter-productive, sometimes resulting in patients being readmitted to the hospital due to complications in their recovery process.

To improve the discharge experience for hospital patients and lower the frequency of avoidable hospital re-admissions, New York lawmakers passed the Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act in 2016.  This blog will explain what the CARE act does, how it benefits patients and answer some common questions patients have about this new hospital policy.

The CARE Act In a Nutshell

Under the CARE Act, hospital discharge planners are now obligated to ask patients if they would like to identify a caregiver who will assist them during their at-home recovery.  If the patient identifies a caregiver, that person will be instructed on the patient’s current condition and the doctor’s prescribed plan of care, as well as any additional skills they will need in order to provide the patient with the support they will need to get better.

Becoming a caregiver is not a permanent position. Instead, caregivers are asked to remain involved in a patient’s recovery in the days or weeks following a hospital discharge, at least until they are confident the patient has settled into a sustainable routine.

The patient’s caregiver can be anyone willing to help, however family, friends, neighbors or paid in-home caregivers are most commonly selected.

Once a caregiver is selected, the patient will be asked to sign a consent form allowing medical professionals to discuss your current medical condition, how they can help, and who to contact if your health declines.

It’s important to understand that being a patient’s designated caregiver is optional.  A selected caregiver can refuse the position for any reason and there is no financial compensation for taking on the responsibility.  Additionally, a patient is not obligated to identify a caregiver if they so choose – doing so will have no impact on when a patient is discharged from the hospital.

Why Identify a Caregiver?

Although patients do not need to identify a caregiver, a little helping hand can go a long way towards your recovery.  Here’s a few ways they can help:

  • A patient’s plan of care might involve use of medication that can impair their ability to care for themselves or make ambulating, even around the house, a potential fall hazard.
  • Some post-hospitalization plans of care involve patients purchasing medical supplies from a local pharmacy. Even a short trip to the store can be hazardous during a patient’s recovery period.
  • A caregiver can be incredibly useful as a second set of eyes, even if they do not actively take part in the patient’s recovery process. Simply having a concerned participant come in and check on your recovery and review a patient’s self-care can go a long way towards protecting a patient’s health.

What Makes a Good Caregiver?

There is no template for a perfect caregiver.  All relationships are different and everyone comes to a hospital discharge situation with different experiences, skills and free time to dedicate to a patient’s care.  Below are some important considerations you should make before asking someone to be your caregiver:

  • Desire to help: A caregiver should be someone who has shown an interest in helping the patient, knows you and understands how you live your life
  • Ability to help: Your caregiver must have the physical capability to assist you in activities you cannot easily do on your own.  Consider a prospective caregiver’s own health and ability level before asking them to take on responsibilities they may not be able to handle, or worse, might pose a health hazard to the caregiver.
  • Proximity: You do not need to live with your caregiver, however a good home caregiver should be able to visit you in your home on a regular basis until you have settled into a comfortable routine.

What is Expected of a Caregiver?

Caregivers are not expected to perform complex medical procedures. Instead, they are meant to help patients as they transition back to home.  This assistance can take many forms, from helping patients remember to take their medication or perform daily physical therapy exercises, as well as perform shopping trips and/or help keep a patient’s home tidy until they can perform these activities for themselves

In the event a patient’s at-home recovery involves medical procedures like injections, wound cleaning or other activities, hospital staff is required to provide the caregiver and patient with adequate training so that they can comfortably perform these procedures at home.This instruction can either be done in one-on-one training, group training, or even with a printed document, if the procedures involved are extremely simple.

During this training, it is critical that the patient and caregiver alike be vocal about any concerns they might have with the plan of care and ask any and all questions they might have in order to provide the best possible care.

Finally, remember that becoming a caregiver is not a lifelong commitment.  Caregivers (as identified through the CARE Act) are only asked to support the patient until they have comfortably resettled into their home and can perform care tasks for themselves again.

What If You Can’t Find a Caregiver?

Sometimes it can be challenging to find someone you would be comfortable identifying as your caregiver, and that’s okay.  Remember, you are not obligated to identify a caregiver.

If think you need assistance at home, but are having trouble finding a caregiver in your family or social circle, it’s highly recommended that you reach out to your hospital’s discharge planner or social work department and express your concerns.  Every hospital staff includes social work specialists that can offer a variety of community support solutions, or help link you with an in-home care agency that suits your medical and financial needs.

SelectCare Home Care Services applauds our state lawmakers for helping New York join the more than 30 states with laws like the CARE Act on their books.  This law is a vital move to improve patient health literacy and underlines just how important reliable, compassionate home care can be for those recovering from a hospital stay.

Our agency has more than three decades of experience helping hospital patients return to their long-time homes after medical procedures. If you or a loved one are preparing for a hospital discharge and are unsure whether you might need additional assistance at home, we encourage you to call SelectCare today or request a free home health care guide.

Our staff of RN Field Nurse Supervisors can meet you at your hospital bedside, free of charge, and discuss everything you will need to make a successful transition from hospital to home, including assistance with your plan of care, household chores, shopping trips, making and attending medical appointments, and even pet care.