Every year, more than 40 million caregivers, mostly family members, provide care to loved ones who are recovering from a hospital stay or wish to “age in place.” These individuals are often charged with a dizzying array of responsibilities to ensure their loved ones recover from an illness or successfully manage their chronic conditions.
Almost half of these caregivers perform medical and nursing tasks, such as managing complex medication regimes, administering injections and performing wound care. By stepping into this role, family caregivers are essential in helping to keep their loved ones out of the hospital, out of expensive post-acute care settings and safe at home.
However, most do so without any prior caregiver experience and little or no guidance from health care professionals, making these medical and nursing tasks intimidating for many. After all, making a mistake in someone’s care can have life-threatening consequences.
CARE for caregivers
The tide is beginning to turn, however. Over the past few years, awareness of the challenges of caregivers has increased — particularly related to the clinical work that they are increasingly tasked with performing.
The 2012 report Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care studied family caregivers to determine what types of medical/nursing tasks they perform and how frequently they perform them. Conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund, the study uncovered a huge gap between what family caregivers are expected to perform and the instruction and guidance provided to them. By uncovering these significant unmet caregiver needs, the study findings have driven sweeping policy changes across the country.
The Home Alone findings were translated into model state legislation in the form of the Caregiver Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act. In a little over three years, the CARE Act is now signed into law in 40 states and territories. It institutes three basic changes in hospital admission and discharge practices:
- RECOGNIZE: Identify the family caregiver early in the hospital stay
- NOTIFY: Include the family caregiver in planning and give notice in advance of hospital discharge
- INSTRUCT: Provide simple instruction for post-acute care at home
Supporting caregiver engagement and CARE Act compliance
AARP and GetWellNetwork recently announced a collaboration to make much-needed instructional resources for family caregivers available in the hospital setting. These 16 how-to videos ensure caregivers have the knowledge and support to provide optimal care outside the hospital or provider’s office, while simplifying CARE Act compliance for hospitals by making it easy to formalize the process.
The videos provide step-by-step instruction and tips for family members on a range of topics, including wound care, mobility and medication management. The combination of the video library integration and a series of prompts designed to document caregiver information in the hospital electronic health record satisfies two provisions of the CARE Act.
Created specifically for caregivers, the educational content advances AARP’s and GetWellNetwork’s efforts to promote meaningful change in how caregivers are supported. Research shows that involving family caregivers in patient discharge planning reduces the number of errors and complications, lowers health care costs, raises patient satisfaction and improves outcomes. In fact, involving caregivers as essential members of the care team is associated with a 25% decrease in 90-day readmission rates.
Promoting patient- and family-centered care is at the heart of what we do at GetWellNetwork. Making these videos available across the care continuum aligns with our mission to improve the way care is delivered for every patient, every family, every time. We are excited about this collaboration, and look forward to reaching millions of family caregivers with these important resources. Find more information about AARP and GetWellNetwork here.