New Evidence Suggests Caregivers Play Key Role in Improving Outcomes

A new metaanalysis published this week puts yet more evidence behind the idea that involving caregivers in care planning is a necessary and overlooked factor in improving care outcomes and lowering costs.

The study, led by University of Pittsburgh researchers and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, identified and examined 15 previously published studies that tested the effects of caregiver intervention. With the data from these studies researchers were able to construct a large combined study population of patients whose caregivers had undergone similar – but not identical – forms of intervention with hospital staff, and compare rates of readmission for those patients. 

The results show a 25% reduction in risk of readmissions at 90 days and a 24% reduction at 180 days.

The study notes that preventable hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge cost Medicare an estimated $12 billion per year; given the significant reductions in readmissions found at 90 and 180 days it's easy to imagine the potential effects on cost of care across the U.S. if caregivers were involved systematically. 

The analysis comes as awareness is growing of the potential impact of caregivers on outcomes, and the importance of their role in overall care delivery. Every year more states pass the AARP-backed CARE legislation – over 30 states have signed it into law to date – which in part requires hospitals to identify, document and train a caregiver when a patient is discharged. Pennsylvania's CARE Act is going into effect this month.

The study underscores Seniorlink's work to date in the areas of falls prevention and dementia care, in which outcomes improved dramatically after integrating family caregivers, including rates of hospitalization.