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Report calls for more care for the caregivers

September 23, 2008 |  1:15 pm

Caregiver1If you've ever been a long-term caregiver to someone who is elderly or ill, you have a good idea of the demands involved. "Family caregivers are often asked to do things that would make nursing students tremble," says Susan Reinhard, senior vice president for public policy of AARP.

Some help may be on the way for the nation's 44 million caregivers. A consortium of groups with interests in health, aging and caregiving has released a report calling for a new approach in how to support and assist patients receiving care at home and their caregivers. The report, titled "State of the Science: Professional Partners Supporting Family Caregiving," redefines good patient care to include meeting the needs of the family and friends who care for the patient. Family members are usually unprepared to take on the job of caregiving but are often asked to perform tasks and services typically reserved for nurses and doctors, the report notes.

"At the same time, America's healthcare system has yet to take into adequate account both the risks and responsibilities carried out by family and other informal caregivers," says Kathleen Kelly, executive director of the Family Caregiver Alliance.

The contributions of unpaid family caregivers have been estimated at $350 billion annually.

The report calls on nurses, social workers and other home-health professionals to treat the patient and caregivers as their clients. Professionals should help families manage their care responsibilities, reduce their own burdens and health risks and promote a better quality of life for caregivers.

As a first step toward that goal, a database of resources for family caregivers and professionals is available online at the Family Caregiver Alliance website.

-- Shari Roan

Artwork: Curtis Parker / For The Times

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