The Quietly Burdened: 3 Strategies to Improve the Caregiver Experience


Tue Mar 29 13:00:25 CDT 2016

For patients with chronic illnesses or serious injuries, family members most often carry the heaviest caregiving burden. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans (29%) serve as informal, unpaid caregivers for a close friend, neighbor or family member, according to The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.

In many cases, improving the patient experience is fundamentally intertwined with the family’s experience. Informal caregivers often see a decline in their own heath and up to 70 percent start showing clinical signs of depression. Providing support resources for family members will be increasingly important for healthcare organizations looking to improve the overall health of patients and their caregivers. 

Here are three strategies to consider:


1. Offer educational resources


Informal caregivers typically do not have a medical background. Providing educational pamphlets and resources so they can better understand the patient’s condition can help them be better caregivers. Additionally, much of a caregiver’s stress is financial – half of caregivers for elderly patients spend more than 10% of their income on the patient’s care, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. Helping family members understand their financial options can go a long way in reducing stress and depression.


2. Coordinate supportive care


Half of all informal caregivers are employed full-time, and also devote an average of 20 hours or more per week to caregiving – a hefty burden with few opportunities for breaks. By offering respite care, or connecting caregivers to local respite care services, healthcare organizations can provide peace of mind for family members who have multiple obligations.


3. Provide Personal Health Record assistance


Providers only record pieces of information acquired during patient visits; caregivers often have a broader experience and can offer insights into the patient’s overall health. Healthcare organizations that offer caregivers PHR access and resources can help ease the burden off the caregiver to remember the patient’s health history. PHRs can also help lower costs by eliminating duplicate testing or procedures and improve outcomes by having a comprehensive health history immediately available to first responders and other providers.


How is your organization improving the caregiver experience? If you’ve been a caregiver, what advice would you give to healthcare providers in engaging patient families?