Family members have historically been the primary caregivers to older and vulnerable relatives, and traditionally close-knit families have relied on local relatives for care. Even as the private care industry booms, there are still over 50 million family caregivers operating in America alone.
Family caregivers are often close at hand – either living with, or regularly visiting the client in question. This close contact makes them excellently placed not only to provide primary care but to manage secondary functions of care such as acting in an emergency or just monitoring the daily intake of vital medicine. Naturally, integrating family caregivers into health care teams can therefore provide local authorities with a powerful resource for care and oversight.
Close coordination between family caregivers and health care teams can be beneficial for patients as well as caregivers – both parties will receive more nuanced and practical support. Despite this, family caregivers are often not taken seriously by local health care teams, who rather treat these caregivers as secondary. Given the traditional role of family caregivers, it’s perhaps unsurprising that health care teams take family caregivers for granted, but it’s time for a rethink.
However, there are a number of challenges faced by any healthcare team when it comes to fully integrating family caregivers. From simple time limitations to the competing demands of a role which requires the slipping from caregiver to family member, family caregivers might be well-placed to offer care but struggle to fit into the systematic approach used by healthcare teams.
What’s more, cultural practices can differ widely and these deep-held beliefs can act as a further barrier for an integrated approach. Let’s explore these themes more widely and see how they can be overcome by health care teams looking to bring family caregivers on board.
Time Limitations and Local Pressures
Perhaps the most present challenge for clinical providers in integrating family caregivers in their caring framework is the competing demands on the lives of caregivers in the community. Balancing work, childcare and caring responsibilities often leave caregivers with little time for engaging with local health authorities – and frustration and resentment can build when a perceived further demand is added by health care providers.
“Family caregivers are walking a delicate tightrope and any intervention in the routine they’ve built for themselves can be an unwelcome interruption,” says Marvin Lockhart, a journalist at Write My X and 1Day2Write. “Health care teams need to start out by respecting these routines – whilst from a third-party perspective they can seem chaotic and inefficient, caregivers tend to be highly attached to them.” Begin by engaging family caregivers on ways health care teams can work with, rather than against, the framework that these caregivers have themselves created.
You can expect both patients and caregivers to be as diverse as the communities they come from, and often cultural barriers emerge to both integration of and communication with family caregivers. Communities of color are more likely to be relying on family caregivers, and also report greater anxiety about performing complex caregiving tasks.
Different languages and cultural practices around personal care can also form barriers for health care teams looking to integrate family caregivers. Communicating with families of patients to gain a full understanding of their cultural commitments is vital for building a working relationship with family caregivers.
Often, the relationship between family caregivers and health care teams becomes one of friction and opposition. “By recognizing the competing demands on family caregivers and the cultural barriers in place, clinical providers are taking the first steps to building a relationship of trust and respect,” says Lillie Ewalt, a writer at Phdkingdom and Britstudent. “These values should be at the heart of any strategy to integrate family caregivers with health care teams.”
Building positive relationships with family caregivers is important for providing the best quality of care, but if you can go further and fully integrate caregivers with your local health care teams you’ll discover greater operating efficiency, lowering costs and enabling you to reach more people in the community. Recognizing the challenges of integrating these caregivers and respecting their approach to care allows a relationship of trust to be built, with powerful implications for care.
Bio: George J. Newton is a writer and researcher at AcademicBrits.com and Dissertation Help. He is a project manager and has worked in the care industry for fifteen years. He also writes for Nextcoursework.com.
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