Friday, July 24, 2015

7 Reasons Why We Need the CDC to Track Family Caregiver Stress |

Here’s why we need to track family caregiver stress:

 1. It disrupts the relationship in the health care system between health care provider and family caregiver. According to research released in June, only 1 in 3 family caregivers (32%) say that a doctor, nurse or social worker asked them about their caregiving experience. Only 16% said a health provider asked about their self-care. When a nurse or doctor or social worker asks a family caregiver about his or her stress, a conversation happens. The health care professional now understands the complexity of each caregiving situation and can better prescribe treatments and offer solutions. Another initiative that calls for family caregivers to be designated as such in the a patient’s health care record could easily be done during the assessment.

2. We capture better data. Research released last month indicated that an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months. Two years ago, research said that two out of our every five U.S. individuals (more than 90 million persons) care for an adult or child with significant health issues. In 2009, research said that 29% of the U.S. adult population, or 65.7 million people, are family caregivers. In essence, we don’t know how many individuals in the U.S. provide care to a family member or friend. Tracking family caregiver stress helps us pinpoint a true number.

3. We also better understand how many stressed family caregivers we have and the cause of the stress. Sometimes, stress comes from the situation, the health care system, the finances, the family dysfunction, the care provided. And, sometimes it relates to a lack of community programs and services. When we track family caregiver stress and its cause, we hone in on community-specific problems, which means we can tailor solutions to what communities need. When understand their stress, we can better support and help family caregivers.

4. We fund solutions that work. When we track family caregivers in the health care system to better understand their stress, we also connect with family caregivers who cope well with their stress. We can understand how they cope. Do they use a community service, a caregiving website, a program at their house of worship? Knowing what helps family caregivers cope means we can make that coping strategy more readily available. We won’t recreate the wheel but rather funnel more money to successful programs and services so they stay that–successful and accessible. (Read: Where’s Our WPA for Caregiving?)

5. We move from data to stories to understanding. Data is helpful but stories are transformative. We need health care professionals to hear the stories of family caregivers. When health care professionals listen to what caregiving is really like, they learn how to better help family caregivers. And, one of the best ways to help a family caregiver is to simply listen.

6. We do what we’re already do to track epidemics (like the flu and ebola) but in a more meaningful, deliberate, expansive way. The CDC knows how to successfully track epidemics. We just need it to track this epidemic–family caregiver stress. 

7. Finally, we save money when we care for the true health care providers in our communities–family caregivers, those individuals who care for a family member or friend. When we support and care for family caregivers, individuals whose work is valued at about $450 billion, we save money. Health care professionals didn’t balk at tracking ebola and report in flu numbers every year. This shouldn’t become a discussion about reimbursement but a commitment to doing better. Let’s just do the right thing–let’s track family caregiver stress. Because, some day, that health care professional who steps up to help a family caregiver could some day be that family caregiver who receives help–all because we put a system in place to track family caregiver stress.

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