‘Hospital-at-home’ trend means family members must be caregivers – ready or not

The growing trend of “hospital-at-home” care presents both new opportunities and challenges for patients and their families.

Defining the trend: “Hospital-at-home” programs offer home-based for those who are seriously ill but stable enough to avoid hospitalization.
* This system outfits patients’ homes with equipment and arranges for healthcare personnel visits, as seen in Chad Semling’s case in Wisconsin.
* It has been expanding in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, with 290 hospitals in 37 states now offering these services.
* Common diagnoses for these programs include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, pneumonia, and various infections.

Implications for caregivers: The utilization of “hospital-at-home” programs places significant responsibilities on family members who often act as unpaid, makeshift caregivers.
* Semling’s wife, Clare, describes the experience as initially overwhelming, having to balance work, care for their two children, and oversee her husband’s care.
* Caregivers can find themselves responsible for tasks such as meal preparation, tracking eating and drinking, as well as aiding in toileting and personal care.

Voices of experience: Family members participating in these programs have a broad range of emotions and caution for other potential caregivers.
* Clare Semling advises caregivers of the large responsibilities involved but would still recommend the program.
* Lori Girard, whose father received hospital-at-home care, credits the program with aiding a full recovery and suggests caregivers ask plenty of questions to fully understand its implications.

Pending regulations: There’s increasing attention to the role and effects of caregivers in hospital-at-home programs.
* The AARP Public Policy Institute stresses the need to understand the impacts of these programs on caregivers.
* Currently, no federal requirement mandates that caregivers are involved in decision-making, though this is a common practice among program directors.
* The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid is considering rules to clarify caregivers’ responsibilities.

View original article on NPR

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