Connecticut bill ensures caregivers receive training information to help released patients

Government And Institutions Associated Press

People caring for a patient just released from the hospital would receive information and training under a bill being considered by lawmakers in Connecticut, the latest in a string of states considering such legislation to help reduce the number of costly readmissions.

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The bill, dubbed the CARE Act, would guarantee caregivers receive follow-up care instructions in medical tasks, such as how to dress a wound or administer medications.

"When it comes to complex, medically oriented tasks for your loved ones, caregivers are often left to their own devices," Richard Bright, an AARP advocacy volunteer from Seymour, told members of the General Assembly's Aging Committee on Wednesday. The panel is considering the bill, which also provides patients with the ability to designate a caregiver when they're admitted to the hospital and requires hospitals to notify the caregiver if the patient is discharged to another facility or back home.

The legislature's Commission on Aging determined nearly 500,000 Connecticut residents provide care to loved ones, such as bathing, dressing, finances, transportation and medical care.

Connecticut's legislation is being pushed by a group of state senators, including Democratic Senate President Martin Looney of New Haven. Looney said his caucus monitors legislation that is passed in other states and noticed both New Jersey and Oklahoma approved bills to ensure caregivers are better prepared. He said it makes sense to enact such a law in Connecticut.

"Now, with people often having shorter hospital stays than what used to be the case, patients come out of the hospital possibly needing more home care than needed previously," he said.

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Looney said the issue can be particularly troublesome for hospitals, which now face increased federal penalties if patients are readmitted within 30 days of a discharge. Looney said 79 percent of hospitals in Connecticut were penalized financially, to some degree, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services because of readmissions.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut branch of AARP, which supports the legislation, conducted a recent survey that found 94 percent of family caregivers in Connecticut want hospitals to better explain the follow-up tasks they must perform when a loved one is sent home. This comes as a national AARP survey found 69 percent of patients released from a hospital do not receive a home visit from a medical professional. The same survey found most family caregivers report they received little to no training in how to help their loved one.

"The CARE Act is a common sense, no-cost solution that will help ease some of the heavy burden placed on family caregivers, and help prevent unnecessary and costly hospital readmissions," said Nora Duncan, AARP's Connecticut State Director.