Utah representatives of a national organization that advocates for older Americans are working to educate patients about their rights. AARP is concerned that many of the association’s members are not aware of their right to designate a caregiver.
In 2016 the state passed a law requiring hospital staff to inform a patient about ways they can designate an official caregiver.
"It is the loved one who does the designation," said AARP Utah Communications Director Laura Polacheck. "Sometimes you are just transferred and sometimes you are discharged. If you have a caregiver and you want that caregiver to be kept informed, whoever is taking care of you, you can designate them and you don't have to have a family relationship."
The "Patient-Designated Caregiver Rule" requires hospitals to include a written discharge plan, as well as instructions and demonstrations of medical tasks that might be required when the patient leaves the hospital. To make sure patients are aware of their rights, AARP has prepared a wallet card.
"We want to make sure that when people and the caregiver go into the hospital they have this card when they need it most, which is when the loved one enters the hospital," she said.
Polacheck said there is no way to feasibly assess whether or not Utah hospital admissions staff is following the designated caregiver rule.
"It can be rather intimidating if there are certain medical tasks that might be a little bit more complex than giving medication or changing a dressing," Polacheck said. "This way you can ask the hospital to give you a demonstration and instruction of exactly what you should be doing with your loved one when they are at home."
There are 336,000 caregivers in Utah. Throughout the month of November AARP and other caregiver organizations will focus on ways to recognize and support professional and volunteer caregivers.