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What Every Family Should Know About the CARE Act

Why is the CARE Act so important?

Like many family caregivers there have likely been times when your loved one has needed health care in a hospital setting.  Successfully navigating the resulting health care transition is critical for both the person receiving care and the family caregiver. The CARE Act ensures that family caregivers are clearly identified and receive any needed supports and education before their loved one is discharged home.

     Laura provides care for both of her parents in their home and often has to coordinate various health care needs including when one or both of her parents have been hospitalized. For Laura, the CARE Act eases the stresses of caring for her aging parents by providing practical information when she needs it.

     Jonathan lives an hour away from his mother who lives on her own in an apartment. When his mother had a stroke the CARE Act smoothed the way for him to be notified in a timely manner and ensured he was involved in planning for her care once she came home to recover. He received the supports and resource information he needed to provide all follow-up care.

     Sarah’s father lives with her and has heart disease. Over the last few years he has had multiple medical emergencies requiring hospitalizations. With the CARE Act she feels more secure as she knows that she will be involved and supported at every step during these health care transitions.

What is the CARE Act?

The Caregiver Advise Record Enable (CARE) Act was developed to support family caregivers when a loved one transitions from a hospital setting back to home care.  It ensures that family caregivers receive appropriate medical information and consultation to perform medical tasks at home after discharge from the hospital.  This can include pertinent contact information about any health care, long-term care, or other community-based services and supports necessary to carry out the hospital discharge plan.

The law went into effect in July 2015.  After this date, all patients and their family caregivers should benefit from the supports provided by the CARE Act. 

What does the CARE Act mean for you as a family member or caregiver?

The CARE Act has several important provisions:

► Patients have an opportunity to name a caregiver and have their contact information put in the medical record. The hospital is required to include the designated caregiver’s name, relationship to the patient, address, and phone number.

► The family caregiver is notified if the patient is to be discharged to another facility or back home.

► The hospital must provide a copy of the discharge plan including instructions and information regarding any follow-up care, treatment and services.  This includes consulting with the caregiver and providing an explanation and live demonstrations of medical tasks – such as medication management, injections, wound care, handling feeding tubes and transfers – that the caregiver will need to perform at home. Caregivers must also have an opportunity to ask questions about follow-up care tasks and have instructions provided in their native language.

How can you make the best use of the CARE Act for your family?

Being informed is one of the best ways to ensure that you understand how the CARE Act can benefit your family during health care transitions.

If you are a family caregiver, download and print this FREE wallet card from AARP Virginia. Keep it with you at all times, so you know your rights under this law: Virginia CARE Act Wallet Card

If you have any difficulties, here are some tips to make sure the CARE Act helps you and your family.

  • While in the hospital talk with hospital staff caring for you or your loved one.
  • If you have concerns while in the hospital, ask about and reach out to the hospital department that addresses patient concerns, such as Patient Relations, Patient Advocate, Guest Relations, Ombudsman or Customer Service.
  • If you are a patient, ask for the opportunity to designate a caregiver in your medical record.
  • If you are a caregiver, be proactive and ask to set up a time to receive instruction and a demonstration from hospital staff about any care you will need to provide at home after discharge.
  • After the hospital stay, you can contact the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC) if you believe you did not get all of the support provided by the CARE Act - OLC licenses and certifies Virginia hospitals and investigates complaints.

If you decide to send OLC a written complaint, be as specific as possible about your concern, and keep a copy of the documents you send.

Trained staff review the complaint and decide how it should be investigated. Keep in mind that an investigation could take several months to complete. If there is an investigation and it finds that there was a violation, OLC issues a report outlining the problem and the hospital responds with a plan saying how they will make corrections. You should hear from OLC about how they responded to your complaint. Contact them if you don't hear from them after a reasonable amount of time.

 


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