California joins trend of family caregiver empowerment

In another demonstration of the trend toward patient-centered healthcare, a new California law requires hospitals to give family caregivers a seat at the table during the care process, Kaiser Health News reports.

Under SB 675, Golden State hospitals must give patients the chance to identify a family caregiver and then let the caregiver know the patient's discharge schedule. Hospitals must also share information with the caregivers on patient needs and medications during the post-discharge period. Privacy laws will still apply, and the hospitals may withhold any information that patients don't want released. 

With the law's passage, California joins 17 other states with similar laws on the books, including Oregon, Virginia and New Hampshire. Michigan is also considering a similar law. All of the laws passed in the last two years, indicating growing recognition of the importance of including family members in the continuum of care. This realization extends beyond state houses as well, with a proposed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule issued last year requiring providers to develop personalized discharge plans for individual patients, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

The importance of family caregivers is likely to remain a hot topic as the population ages, according to the article, especially as 2015 AARP research indicated about 40 million Americans cared for a family member in the last year. The state laws are largely the result of AARP's intense lobbying; the advocacy group crafted a model bill that was the basis for the legislation.

"A piece of paper can't really educate people how to fill a syringe," Elaine Ryan, AARP's vice president of state advocacy and strategy, told KHN. The legislation, she added, provides caregivers with any enough information to pick up where hospital workers left off as soon as their loved ones arrive home.

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