Hospitals Know the Importance of Care Support
As South Carolina’s hospitals continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has led them to restrict visitation policies and access to facilities. Hospitals are working diligently to isolate areas with potentially infectious patients and follow the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. But despite the overwhelming need to secure facilities from unnecessary visitors, hospitals also recognize that there are individuals who are critical to ensuring the best care for a patient – caregivers and care support.
A caregiver is someone who provides direct care for a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person. According to AARP’s 2020 report on Caregiving in the U.S., 1 in 5 Americans served as a caregiver in the last year and that number is increasing as the aging baby boomer population requires more care. Most caregivers of adults (89%) are relatives and a growing number (40%) live with the person they are caring for to provide 24-hour support. Many adults with designated caregivers rely on them to communicate and perform basic tasks that many people take for granted.
For example, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that nearly half of all caregivers who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. These patients can often become agitated or nonresponsive and need the support of a caregiver who can help establish a safer environment for them. Recent guidance from the Alzheimer’s Association provides that patients with dementia may be unable to process essential identifying information or know how to request help when not accompanied by a caregiver.
That’s why many facilities like the Medical University of South Carolina include “supportive care persons” and “caregivers” in their visitation policies. Prisma Health allows for one person to be identified as the “care partner” for patients with special behavioral or physical needs and Tidelands Health designates one adult “support partner” per hospitalized patient. While the terms used to acknowledge these critical caretakers may be different, they all provide an opportunity to enhance patient care for those individuals with special needs.
The state’s hospitals and health systems are committed to implementing procedures that protect patients, employees, and communities from exposure to COVID-19. However, hospitals also encourage patients who require additional care support to have a healthcare power of attorney or other caretaker authorization that provides that special status to a designated caregiver who is not already a direct relative or legal guardian. This will make it easier for healthcare providers to recognize and permit caregivers who may not be directly related to the patient. To learn more about how to establish a healthcare power of attorney and other advanced care planning, visit My Life My Choices (https://www.mylifemychoices.org/).
As South Carolina battles COVID-19 and enters a critical flu season, hospitals will continue to closely monitor and limit access to facilities in the interest of public health. Learn more about hospital recommendations for visitation amid the COVID-19 pandemic here.