With this being the week of Mother’s Day, it’s a good time to highlight a less-talked-about role of many women. As an AARP Public Policy Institute report recently discussed, 6 out of 10 family caregivers are female. (By “family caregiver,” I mean those who aren’t paid to help an ill or infirm family member.) Particularly at this time of year when we honor mothers, it’s important to remember that many of these women care for parents or a spouse while simultaneously raising children — a difficult juggling act no matter how good a multitasker you are!
Adding to that, the caregiver’s role has become more challenging over time. While family caregivers once focused mainly on assisting with the activities of daily living and social support, the first nationally representative study of family caregivers providing complex care activities, published by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund with PPI leading the research, found otherwise. The study’s findings revealed that half of caregivers were performing “medical/nursing tasks” including but not limited to the following:
- Administering multiple medications (including injections)
- Providing wound care
- Managing colostomies
- Inserting catheters
- Giving tube feedings
With the pressure to perform tasks typically relegated to health care professionals, it’s no wonder 41 percent of caregivers report high levels of emotional stress.
Fortunately, AARP, working with its state offices and other stakeholders, has advanced state-level legislation that addresses the need to support family caregivers. That support comes primarily from nurses, who offer instruction on medical/nursing tasks as part of a patient’s discharge plan. As part of the legislation — called the Caregiver, Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which is now the law in 38 states and territories — patients have the right to designate a family caregiver who is named in the patient’s hospital record. Designated caregivers are then directly involved in the discharge planning and are offered instruction in how to perform any complex tasks they’re expected to perform.
The end result: When family caregivers leave the hospital with patients at their side, they will have received any needed information or training. Rather than feeling alone and lacking support and information, they can feel secure knowing that their daily caregiving tasks have been thoroughly explained by a health care professional and any questions have been addressed to their satisfaction.
To further ease caregivers’ concerns once they’ve returned home with the patient, the AARP Public Policy Institute has created a new initiative: a Home Alone Alliance of organizations committed to producing resources such as teaching videos, which help with everything from Preparing Your Home for Safe Mobility to What to Do When Someone Falls. (In my next post, I’ll blog more about some new and exciting video releases that we have planned for the coming months.)
Of course, women aren’t the only ones serving in the family caregiving role; millions of men are taking up the task as well. We’ll discuss them in a blog next month, when another day celebrating parents comes around.
But this month it’s time to honor mothers, including those performing family caregiving duties. And as for the rest of the year, it’s good to know that tools like the CARE Act and teaching videos are there to support caregivers year-round.