A new California law that requires hospitals to identify and engage a family caregiver for discharged patients is raising concerns about its practicality.
As of Jan. 1, California hospitals are required to identify a caregiver during a patient's hospitalization and inform that caregiver of the individual's discharge date and instructions, such as medication schedules. Hospitals are still required to maintain privacy requirements and cannot release information without the patient's consent. About a dozen states have passed similar laws.
Supporters such as the AARP say it will improve the quality of the transition to the home setting and reduce readmissions. The law will stimulate conversations about individual preferences and capabilities to help loved ones remain independent, said Suzanne Reed, chief of staff for the bill's sponsor, Sen. Carol Liu.
Although it didn't take a position on the bill, the California Hospital Association said it supports policies that lead to effective care transitions and stressed the importance of family caregivers in patients' recovery.
But Reed acknowledged that family dynamics sometimes get in the way of a discharge plan. An identified family member may not be interested in carrying out the required duties, or the caregiver may clash with other family members. —Michael Sandler