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TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Linda R. Greenstein that would ensure that those taking care of patients after they leave the hospital are included in instructions on post-release care was approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“Often a friend or relative is acting as a caregiver and helping a patient when they are released from the hospital, ensuring that they take their medication or receive the therapy needed to heal,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Chairman of the Committee. “But these individuals are often receiving their instructions not directly from a doctor or health care professional, but secondhand through the patient.  To avoid that important health and care information doesn’t slip through the cracks, we should allow the health care professionals to include these caregivers in the discharge plan and post-release care.”

The bill, S-2127, would allow patients in hospitals to declare a caregiver who could receive instructions for post-hospital care. Under the bill, a caregiver could be anyone, such as a relative, friend or neighbor, who is providing after-care assistance to the patient in their residence.

The bill would require an attending physician to consult with the designated caregiver and issue a discharge plan that describes the after-care assistance needs. The bill would require that the plan include a description of all after-care assistance tasks necessary to maintain the patient’s ability to reside at home and contact information for any health care community resources and long-term services. This consultation would provide the caregiver with the opportunity to ask questions about the after-care instructions and tasks.

The hospital would also be required to notify the caregiver of the patient’s discharge or transfer to another facility as soon as possible, but not less than four hours prior to the discharge.

“Ensuring that someone follows a doctor’s orders when they are released from the hospital can help a patient recover faster and avoid relapses and readmittances into a hospital,” said Senator Greenstein, D-Middlesex and Mercer. “But our current system doesn’t allow for the person who is actually providing care to the patient after they get home, to hear first-hand from the physician what the after-care instructions are. By allowing patients to designate caregivers, we can ensure that these individuals are equipped to provide competent, post-hospital assistance to loved ones.”

The bill was approved by the Committee with a vote of 9-0.  It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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