Aging and illness happens to all of us. For many of our patients, as these challenges arise, they find their family members stepping up to become their caregivers, often with little to no experience with that type of role.
Family caregivers do not have to care for their loved ones alone. There are many resources that you can direct them to where they can find support and answers to their questions as they come up. Here’s where you and your patients’ caregivers can start looking.
There are numerous places that caregivers can begin with that are located locally to them. States offer support services for many family caregivers through organizations like senior adult services, often run directly by county and city senior centers.
There are many types of support services available through these options. Some examples include the following:
- Respite services, which provide a break from caregiving for the caregiver and continuation of care for the family member
- Training and educational opportunities on caregiving topics
- Local support groups
- Online support forums
- Supplemental services, like assistance in finding, renting, or buying supplies or medical equipment needed for caregiving.
Familiarize yourself with your state’s and county’s service centers, the qualifications that caregivers must meet in order to receive services, and the types of services that are offered.
Qualifications are specific but do often cover a broad category of caregivers and patients to try to help as many people as possible who need it.
Your facility should also have its own set of resources that pertain specifically to your specialty. Check with your facility’s administrators to see if you have a dedicated staff member, like a social worker, in charge of keeping track of support services and how you can and should direct caregivers to access those services.
There are many national organizations, many nonprofit or federally run, that focus on specific diseases or disabilities, like Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, or cancer. These organizations offer various support options for caregivers of family members with these particular diseases.
Some of these options that you might find through these organizations include some of the following:
- Online support groups or forums
- In-person support groups that are nearby to the family
- Dedicated hotlines
- Educational resources, such as videos, reading materials, or presentations
- Search databases, such as for researching long-term care facilities.
Examples of these organizations include the following to give you an idea of where you can look to find organizations specific to your speciality and the patient demographics you care for:
- The American Stroke Association offers a dedicated hotline for stroke patients and their families as well as a network to find support groups in person or online.
- The American Cancer Society links to many support options for caregivers, such as educational materials, online support groups, and a list of programs and services to help support cancer patients and those caring for them.
- The National Institute on Aging is a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. It offers many resources, particularly detailed answers to common caregiving questions, for those caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related diseases.
- For caregivers of veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a caregiver support line for those caring for veterans in addition to relevant monthly presentations and educational resources.
For general caregiving support, the Family Caregiver Alliance is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing support and resources to family caregivers.
Keep an eye out for family caregivers who may need support. Encourage them, especially new caregivers just beginning their caregiving journey, to seek support or ask for help whenever needed.
Not only will this help the patient get the needed care they need, but it helps ensure that the family caregivers are taken care of as well. Just like with health care professionals, if we don’t take care of ourselves, it’s very difficult to take care of other people.