Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the CARE ACT (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable ACT) into law on October 26 and it will become effective in 180 days, requiring hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver and to provide training for caregivers to use with the discharged patient. The bill sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal was a top priority of AARP and was supported by other senior and health advocacy organizations. It passed unanimously in both houses of the State Legislature in the spring. Its unanimous passage undoubtedly resulted from the fact that hospital lobbyists supported it and said they were already doing what the bill requires.
In fact, to have opposed this bill would have made no sense, because hospitals are going through changes which are giving incentives for care coordination and penalties for unnecessary re-admissions. To achieve those goals hospitals, doctors, health systems and insurers should be investing staff time and resources into all efforts to improve post hospital care and to support the role of patients, families and caregivers. There are 2.6 family caregivers in New York State and this law is important because with more outpatient procedures and shorter hospitals visits they are called upon to do a lot more than in the past.
So, the question will be what will change when the actual provisions go into effect? A caregiver’s name, phone number and address will have to be kept on the record, so that should be helpful though hospitals should have spouses, next of kin and health proxies already in their databases. The hospitals will have to be more formal in the training they provide to caregivers on the way out the door. With the rush of discharge planning, instructions are required to be given on paper about after care, but the new law requires a demonstration of how to provide care for the caregiver.