A newly released report, jointly published by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund, unearthed some shocking statistics when they surveyed 1,677 family caregivers across our nation. Consider these numbers:
42 million – national estimates of the number of unpaid family caregivers
46% – percentage of family caregivers who perform medical tasks or skilled nursing for family members with complex diagnoses
75% – percentage of family caregivers who report doing medication management, including IV therapy and injections
61%– percentage of family caregivers who said they learned to do medical tasks for their loved one “on their own”
1/3– portion of survey respondents who reported doing wound care
2/3– portion of survey respondents who reported receiving no home visits from health care professionals
40% – percentage of family caregivers who report feeling stressed or worried about making a mistake
1/3 – portion of survey respondents who rated the family caregiver’s own health as fair or poor
These sobering numbers tell a story of commitment and courage, but also point to the extremity of the situation in which family caregivers find themselves. Without proper training and professional support, without respite, and without compensation, these family members valiantly do what is needed for their loved one, often to the detriment of their own health.
The report quotes Susan Reinhard of AARP’s Public Policy Institute:
“We know that family caregivers provide help with activities such as bathing and dressing, shopping, cooking and preparing meals. We also ask caregivers to do things that would make even nursing students tremble; it’s important that we understand the scope of this new normal.”
What can we do in response to the needs of family caregivers? Here are some suggestions:
*Honor and support them!
*Come alongside them wherever you can; offer small getaways, companionship, or help with errands.
*Refer them to community resources and support networks, such as the Snohomish County Family Caregiver Program.
*Encourage them to attend to their own needs. Particularly when family caregiving cannot be shared with siblings or other relatives, consider hiring regular or occasional respite care.
*Delegate! Family caregivers do not have to go beyond their depth with complex nursing tasks. They can continue to provide daily assistance and loving support while delegating the more skilled tasks to trained caregivers. For example, nurse delegation is a process by which a caregiver can be trained to perform a task that is normally the purview of nurses. An RN trains the caregiver to perform the task according to all relevant care standards, monitors performance, and certifies that they are fully equipped to deliver care. This process spares the family caregiver from being thrown into the deep end of complex medical care, prevents the escalation of care into a skilled facility, and ensures quality care delivery. It is a win-win!
If you are a family caregiver swimming in the deep end, or if you know of someone who is barely treading water, you may wish to contact Cascade Companion Care to see if regular or occasional respite care could be the life preserver you need. In the meantime, we salute you!
(To read the whole report, visit: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-10-2012/home-alone-family-caregivers-providing-complex-chronic-care.html)