Is Your Hospital CARE Act Ready?

Is Your Hospital CARE Act Ready?
By Sara Guastello, Director of Knowledge Management, Planetree

As of this writing, if you live in one of 14 U.S. states, the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act is, or will soon be, state law.  And if you don’t live in one of those states, chances are good that efforts are underway to move the bill through your state legislature in the near future.  Through a standard set of provisions directed at identifying, supporting and training family caregivers of hospitalized patients, the CARE Act aims to improve the quality of patient care, reduce readmissions, and lower overall healthcare costs.

Reprinted from, June 29, 2015. Copyright 2015 AARP. All rights reserved

Momentum is building for the enactment of the CARE Act nationwide, fueled by the changing nature of family caregiving, both in terms of prevalence (estimated at approximately 42 million family caregivers in the U.S.[1]) and complexity of caregiving responsibilities, with almost half of all family caregivers having performed medical or nursing tasks for their loved one[2].

Credit to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) for making support of family caregivers the centerpiece of its advocacy platform in 2015, significantly accelerating efforts to formally recognize the vital role that family can play as members of their loved one’s care team.

Care PartnerThis promotion of the role of family members as caregivers has been a core tenet of the Planetree approach since the first model Planetree unit in the 1980s.  It was then that early Planetree champions conceived of the concept of enlisting family as “Care Partners.”  A Care Partner is a loved one designated by the patient—and recognized by the other members of the care team—who assumes shared responsibility for mutually-agreed upon aspects of patient care, ranging from serving as a family spokesperson and taking an active role in care coordinator and/or medication management to providing hands-on care.   Since that time, the Care Partner concept has been incorporated into the Planetree Patient-Centered Designation criteria as a hallmark patient-centered practice that epitomizes family engagement, and has been embraced by patient-centered hospitals around the world.

The CARE Act legislation elevates this level of family caregiver support beyond hospital or healthcare system policy to state law.  Suffice it say, however, that hospitals with established Care Partner programs certainly are ahead of the curve when it comes to being “CARE Act Ready.”

The Act has three core provisions, requiring hospitals to:

  1. Record the name of the family caregiver in the patient’s medical record when they are admitted for treatment
  2. Inform the family caregiver when their loved one is to be discharged
  3. Provide the family caregiver education and instruction on the medical tasks they will need to perform at home.

For hospitals with an established Care Partner program, it will be important to identify any programmatic or process gaps to ensure alignment with the CARE Act requirements.  For instance, how is the identity of the Care Partner being captured and shared with the rest of care team?

For hospitals endeavoring to bring themselves into fulfillment with the CARE Act, consider bringing together a group of patients, family members and staff to co-design an operational plan for supporting family caregivers.  Embrace the opportunity to look beyond the minimum requirements of the CARE Act to also consider processes for orienting Care Partners, providing staff training on strategies for engaging family in meaningful ways, and implementing supportive resources to alleviate the well-documented toll that caregiving can take on loved ones.  These are all defining aspects of a Care Partner program that fall outside the scope of the CARE Act, but that promote the long-term sustainability of the initiative.

Looking for more support in implementing a Care Partner Program?  Planetree offers a range of on-site coaching and virtual training opportunities to inform and support your team on methods and strategies for implementing a comprehensive and sustainable Care Partner Program, including:

  • On-Site Coaching. A Planetree Experience Advisor will work shoulder to shoulder with your team to implement a new (or revitalized) Care Partner Program, including a customized assessment of current efforts, identification of barriers and facilitators for success, action planning and evaluation.
  • Virtual Care Partner Intensive. Three virtual, interactive 90-minute sessions facilitated by Planetree Advisors addressing the fundamentals of the Care Partner Program, charting a course for implementation and conveying tactics for promoting sustainability.  In addition, the intensive provides a virtual “look” at exemplary Care Partner Programs from within the Planetree Membership Network and guidance in the development of a personalized implementation framework.

For more information, contact Jim Kinsey, Planetree’s Director of Member Experience, at 203-732-1365 or

[1] L Feinberg, S Reinhard, A Houser and R Choula, Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update – The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving (Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, July 2011.

[2] SC Reinhard, C Levine and S Samis, Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care (Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute and United Hospital Fund, October 2012.