Understanding the Role of Family Caregivers
Family caregivers deal with numerous challenges every day that leave them overwhelmed, anxious and/or intimidated by their duties:
- Given the responsibilities of caring for a loved one, some family caregivers are forced to reduce the number of working hours, take a leave of absence, or leave their jobs – especially if they need to ensure a loved one is cared for and taking medication correctly throughout the day.
- Mornings can be a balancing act of preparing children and one’s self for school, work, etc. while ensuring a loved one has what s/he needs for the day.
- Evenings are also a balancing act of preparing meals while hoping to participate in family time with other family members. During the night, family caregivers may need to monitor their loved ones’ condition from time to time, leading to interrupted sleep and increased fatigue.
- The coronavirus pandemic has added another layer of stress as caregivers find themselves dealing with a new set of challenges.
According to the APA, caregivers also face challenges regarding care decisions for their loved ones such as recognizing “when is it time” for various services, figuring out residential placement, and coordinating end of life care planning.
How Home Health Care Agencies Can Support Caregivers
The concept of “caring for the caregiver” is increasingly critical to addressing the complex demands place on family caregivers. A recent study highlights how most family caregivers receive little formal training from agencies and experience challenges in learning how to manage the physical functioning (“PF”) needs of older adults post-hospital discharge:
- The lack of training created a steep learning curve. As one caregiver described: “Well, at the beginning, it was difficult because I had to kind of train myself and educate myself”. As a result, caregivers were left with gaps in knowledge such as “the signs to look for before…a crisis”, or needing more information on how to use different medical equipment.
- Detailed instructions would be helpful. One caregiver stated she would have liked more information “on what to do when I got her up and had to give her medication, and her physical activity”. Other caregivers wanted more information on goals and expectations for care and whether or not the older adult was “progressing in his/her treatment.”
- Receiving information early would be beneficial. Regarding her mother’s goals of care, one caregiver stated, “I think if it was given to me sooner, if there was more knowledge by the [home health care] service, it would have been better because I could have gotten her up and maybe the swelling or what have you, whatever they call it that the water built up, would have been out and she wouldn’t have been laying around…But I think if I got the information sooner it would have helped.”
“Caregivers want to know how best to care for their loved ones, but they often feel like they are learning on their own,” Jo-Ana Chase, the study’s author and an assistant professor in the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing, says. “By strengthening the relationship between caregivers and home health care providers, caregivers will be connected with the resources they need to improve patient health outcomes,” she says.
Using Virtual Care to Support Family Caregivers
To help address caregiver challenges, home health agencies use Synzi’s telehealth and virtual care platform to provide care management services such as training skills, counseling, and immediate answers and support. Real-time training or reinforcement of medical/nursing tasks can be provided over video. Messaging can help caregivers bolster their confidence and comfort.
Also, the family caregivers themselves may use the Synzi platform for their own self-care. Home health agencies can provide their patients’ caregivers with convenient access to behavioral and mental support. Providing caregivers with easier access to emotional care can help caregivers continue to provide the challenging and demanding care needed by their loved ones.