How much do you know about the caregivers of your patients? Here are 5 secrets caregivers of your patients are desperate for you to know:
Secret #1: They’re stressed…probably more than you think. Most caregivers are juggling multiple priorities and usually have little experience navigating the complexities of the healthcare system. While formal assessments like the Caregiver Strain Index and the Caregiver Reaction Scale can help you understand specific stressors they are facing, one simple question can quickly uncover their stress level. Ask the patient’s caregiver to assign a number to his or her stress level (0-low through 100 (high).
Secret #2: They often feel stuck. Most caregivers report feeling like they don’t have a choice—caregiving is an obligation. They also often feel trapped with tunnel-vision about what a “good caregiver” is and feel like they have to live up to that image.
Secret #3: They are constantly being hit with surprises. There are often unrealistic expectations for how long the caregiving experience will last (usually longer than expected). Sticker shock occurs over what insurance does not cover.
Secret #4: They feel their loved one’s situation is special. Of course healthcare professionals recognize that each patient and caregiver’s situation is unique. But caregivers appreciate when the healthcare professional acknowledges and validates the distinctive circumstances their family is facing.
Secret #5: They need us to be sensitive in the way we communicate with them. While we must be candid about healthcare information, it will benefit the caregiver as well as the patient if we are culturally and generationally sensitive in conversation. It’s also critical to breakdown technical healthcare terms and jargon into language the caregiver can grasp and apply to their loved one’s situation.
If you’ve been a caregiver, what else do you think healthcare professionals should know about your experience? If you are a healthcare leader, how is your organization meeting the needs of your patients’ caregivers?
Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.