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Caregiving: Its a Growing Challenge

Caregiving: It's a growing challenge - In number and complexity

Caregiving: Its a Growing ChallengeIt’s always been part of the community fabric – people taking care of people, often family. The Bible even gives specific direction as to caring for family, disable and widows. And it’s good. The challenges come these days from the extraordinary burden of working while care giving, of being a caregiver and a parent (sandwich) and the increasing complexity of care that is needed.

There are several purposes of this post: 1) to reassure those of you who are caregivers that you aren’t alone and perhaps share some common practices and, 2) to provide some ideas as to resources that might be helpful.

Who are the Caregivers?

A brand-new study from the Pew Research Center paints a picture of care giving in the United States:

  • 30% of all adults over age 18 are caregivers. This is up from 30% in only three years.
  • Caring for a loved one cuts across most demographic groups, but is especially prevalent among those ages 30-64. These, of course, are those in the prime of their employment age and are more likely to be employed outside the home.

What are Common Practices?

The Pew study focused on information gathering activities. Caregivers are incredible collectors of information about the diseases and treatments appropriate for their loved ones. They search for information about medical problems, treatments and drugs, they search for information that would suggest a diagnosis, they consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments, they read online about someone else’s personal health experience and they go online to find others with similar health concerns.

Information searches are of two types:

  • Online through internet searches. 84% of caregivers with internet access went online within the past year to research health topics. Most often, they were researching a specific disease or medical topic (71%) or a certain medical treatment or procedure (57%). Most (70%) started with a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo.
  • Offline through conversations with others. 79% of all caregivers got information, care or support from a doctor or other health care professional. Almost as many (70%) got information or support from friends or family.

Regardless of source, information is vitally important to caregivers. They want to do the right thing and seek information in many places.

What About When It’s Complex Chronic Care?

The advent of life-prolonging treatments for chronic diseases means that more Americans are living with these diseases that require ongoing complex care. Much of this care falls to family caregivers as well. The AARP and United Hospital Fund took a look at these situations in a recent survey.

  • Almost half of family caregivers performed medical/nursing tasks for care recipients with multiple chronic conditions.
  • Medication management was a particular concern. More than three-fourths of these caregivers were managing medications including intravenous fluids and injections. Almost 20% of these were managing ten or more prescriptions per day.
  • They performed other medical tasks: wound care, using meters or monitors, incontinence care, operating durable medical equipment or medical equipment such as ventilators or tube feeding equipment.

Resources Needed

  • Teaching: Caregivers want to do the best for their loved one. They often feel unprepared. That’s the reason behind the aggressive search for information. It’s a deep desire for information and competence, from diagnosis to treatment options to the hands-on how to care for their loved one. It’s more than just reading something on the internet. It’s the teach, demonstrate, return demonstrate of actual activities to fosters learning, competence and comfort.

Teaching is at the heart of home health, personal care and hospice at Interim HealthCare. While our Nurses, Therapists and Personal Care Aides “do things” as in wound care, for example, their goal is to teach the patient and family to perform the services and to understand their condition, not just the tasks. For example, an RN teaches the patient and family about their Congestive Heart Failure condition: what causes it, what makes it worse and what they can do to make the best of the situation. They teach them how to monitor their condition and what to do when it gets out of line.

  • Respite: Caregivers need relief. The negative impact on the lives of the caregiver (and other family members) is high. One of the respondents to the AARP study said, “In the last year and a half I have developed high blood pressure, diabetes and weight gain so now I have sleep apnea.” These caregivers are doing their best to keep their loved one safely at home.

Interim HealthCare has a patient and family-centered approach to helping clients and families. Part of that is providing respite services, oftentimes for just a few hours a day. A few hours of service costs less than a dinner out.

At Interim HealthCare we are committed to working with family caregivers, not help them help their loved one stay safely at home. Medicaid, Medicaid and most insurance plans cover medically necessary services. Those medically necessary services include teaching about new diagnoses, teaching about new medications, wound care and many other complex issues facing caregivers. We will consult with you and send a nurse to meet with you at your request. No physician order is necessary for that assessment.

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