Family or informal caregivers are the friends, family, and neighbors who step in when someone they care about is in need. It is estimated that there are upwards of 40 to 50 million caregivers in the United States right now, and even those figures are likely underestimated because individuals serving as informal caregivers often don’t self-classify with that title. As far as they are concerned they are simply a daughter, parent, partner, etc. who is doing what needs to be done. And as the baby-boomers continue to age, those numbers are only expected to increase.
Caregivers are the people who are often the critical linchpin between an individual care recipient, healthcare teams and social services systems.
Whether the patient needs a caregiver due to stroke, ALS, paralysis, dementia, cancer, or recovery from other acute or chronic illness, astute healthcare providers are recognizing more and more that including caregivers in all communications generally leads to better outcomes for everybody involved.
Caregivers become default case managers, record and financial bookkeepers, and chauffeurs to and from appointments. They dispense and monitor medications; they change bandages care for wounds and provide increasingly complex and often long-term services. As a result, they need resources and education as well as social and emotional support, to help prevent the chronic stress, guilt, burn out, increased isolation and depression that often occurs when caregivers wind up neglecting themselves.
Caretaking is a big responsibility to take on no matter how experienced or informed an individual may be. Healthcare and social service providers have to communicate with people where they are. Ultimately, this population and these caretakers rely on healthcare providers to proactively connect them with accurate, timely, person-centered information before they hit the wall or find themselves over their heads in a crisis.
Technological solutions such as Aspect’s Patient Engagement can be key to improving caregiver information.
As health organizations continue to transform the patient and staff experience with planning and Journey Mapping it’s vital to remember to include the caregivers. Video calling, SMS or app-based HIPAA compliant omni-channel communication tools can ensure caregivers are in the loop from issues as wide ranging as appointment reminders to support groups, trainings on how to access resources, information about respite care, home care seminars or workshops, recommendations on best practices or better management of referrals. Aspect can help ensure caregivers have consistent points of contact, so they never need to feel alone and they will always have a way to contact the right person if needed.
Family caregiving is ultimately a public health issue— caregiver stress, an aging population, and a shrinking family caregiver workforce are all factors that make this a growing concern. Serving as a caregiver will never be an easy task, but it’s up to all of us to make the experience as positive as we can for these everyday heroes.
Aspect can help you analyze and improve your patient and caregiver journeys. Get started today by signing up for a complimentary strategic briefing on how journey mapping can enhance your caregiver engagement efforts.