‘Hospital-at-home’ Trend Leans Heavily on Family Caregivers

woman with crutches gets out of bed

by Kat McGowan for GBH News

Hospital-at-home programs are for people sick enough to need the attention a hospital provides, but stable enough to be cared for at home.

Research on outcomes is not conclusive, yet, but shows promise that it can provide good care and save health care dollars. But a big question looms: What about the family? Are unpaid, untrained family caregivers ready to take on the responsibility of overseeing a critically ill person at home — even with backup from visiting clinicians? “We’ve got to look at the consequences for family caregivers,” says Susan Reinhard, director of AARP’s Public Policy Institute.

This question is about to become more important. For decades, hospital-at-home was a small-scale experiment. During the COVID pandemic, the idea went mainstream. In November 2020, the federal government changed rules so that hospitals could be paid the same amount to treat patients at home. Today, 290 hospitals in 37 states have signed up.

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