FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 2008
Nancy Thompson, AARP
nthompson (at) aarp (dot) org
Bonnie Lawrence, FCA
(415) 434-3388 ext. 312
blawrence (at) caregiver (dot) org
Cindy Gessell, AJN
clgessell (at) msn (dot) com
Carrie Murdock deGuzman, CSWE
cmurdock (at) cswe (dot) org
Family Caregivers Need Help to Handle Heavy Care Demands—Lack Information, Training
Patient Care Must Be Redefined To Include Family Members; Professionals and Advocates Pledge To Help Educate Family Caregivers
Washington, DC—In a first of its kind collaboration, national organizations representing nurses, social workers, family caregivers and people age 50+ today released a report calling for a re-definition of good patient care to include those family members and friends who provide ongoing, often daily, care. Family members are very often not prepared to take on the task of caregiving–especially as many family caregivers are providing services typically reserved for registered nurses and doctors.
The report, “State of the Science: Professional Partners Supporting Family Caregiving,” (www.NursingCenter.com/AJNfamilycaregivers) is a joint endeavor of the AARP Foundation, the American Journal of Nursing, the Council on Social Work Education and its Journal of Social Work Education, Family Caregiver Alliance, and Rutgers Center for State Health Policy (New Jersey).
Family and other informal caregivers provide the vast majority of the long-term care provided in this country. Yet the 44 million caregivers assisting those 18+ years of age tend to have limited preparation for the job and receive limited ongoing support even as their contributions to the economy have been estimated at $350 billion annually.
The report argues that the relationships between and among nurses, social workers, patients and the friends and family who care for them must change as Americans live longer and need more long-term care at the same time that the nation faces workforce shortages among healthcare professionals, and earlier discharge from hospitals require more sophisticated care to be provided by family caregivers.
“Family caregivers are often asked to do things that would make nursing students tremble,” said Susan Reinhard, RN, PhD, AARP’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy.
“At the same time, America’s healthcare system has yet to take into adequate account both the risks and responsibilities carried by family and other informal caregivers and the potential to improve patient care if they are given more support and treated like partners with healthcare professionals,” said Kathleen Kelly, Executive Director, Family Caregiver Alliance.
To that end, the report redefines best practices in the fields of nursing and social work as they concern caregiving for older adults and the partner organizations have pledged to spread those practices to reach more caregivers. As an initial step, a database of tools and resources for both family caregivers and professionals is available on the Family Caregiver Alliance website at www.caregiver.org.
“Our ultimate goals are to change the everyday practices, standards and protocols of the healthcare delivery system to treat both patient and caregiver as clients and to educate the next generation of nursing and social work professionals to serve caregivers in new and beneficial ways,” said Diana J. Mason, RN, PhD, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Nursing. “We also hope to be able to raise family caregivers’ own expectations about the support they should receive from professionals.”
The report also argues for eliminating the barriers to engaging caregivers that nurses, discharge planners and social workers currently face, such as lack of time due to heavy workloads.
“Enhancing the working relationships between nurses, social workers, patients and caregivers is essential,” said Nancy Hooyman, PhD, Co-principal Investigator of the CSWE Gero-Ed Center and Hooyman Gerontology Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Assessing the needs of family caregivers can assist nurses and social workers in offering the most effective support available.”
The parties to the report pledged to partner with families in new ways to:
- Improve families’ ability to better manage their everyday care responsibilities, reduce their own burdens and health risks, and promote a better quality of life for both the older adults receiving care and the family members providing it
- Improve professionals’ ability to assess the needs of family, friend, and neighbor caregivers; provide caregivers with the information and skills needed to deliver care; and lead in the development of family-friendly policies, practices and environments across healthcare settings.
The report both outlines the knowledge and skills needed by the caregiving professionals and suggests ways to develop them. It also lays out an agenda for future research on family caregiving. This month a special issue of the Council on Social Work Education's Journal of Social Work Education (JSWE) also will be devoted to how the social work and nursing professions can prepare to serve caregivers. This first-ever endeavor will feature resources on developing the nursing-social work partnership, issues in caregiving assessments, and the knowledge and skills that nurses and social workers need. This JSWE issue also proposes a comprehensive research agenda for the profession to consider, including evidenced-based intervention design and testing and technology integration.
“The unified voices of the professionals and loved ones who have the closest relationships with patients make this a particularly powerful statement of goals,” concluded AARP’s Reinhard. “With this unanimity of purpose, we will be able to begin to change the course of healthcare in America.”
The State of the Science report was made possible by funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation. It was released to coincide with a new initiative from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ offering enhanced information on caregiving at www.medicare.gov and from other sources.
AARPis a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 33 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Founded in 1900, the American Journal of Nursing (AJN) is the largest and most established nursing journal in the world. It is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (www.LWW.com) a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines publishing under the LWW brand, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services. LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading multinational publisher and information services company.
The Council on Social Work Education(CSWE) is a nonprofit national association representingmore than3,000 individual members, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. One of its many services to the profession is the Journal of Social Work Education (JSWE), which is published 3 times annually. This year, there will be an additional fall JSWE issue featuring resources on developing the nursing-social work partnership, issues in caregiving assessments, and the knowledge and skills that nurses and social workers need. This JSWE issue also proposes a comprehensive research agenda for the profession to consider, including evidenced-based intervention design and testing and technology integration.
For more than 30 years, Family Caregiver Alliance has offered programs to support and sustain the important work of families and friends caring for loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions. FCA offers programs at national, state and local levels. The National Center on Caregiving was established at FCA in 2001 to advance the development of high-quality, cost-effective services and policies nationwide. A wealth of caregiving advice, resource listings, newsletters, fact sheets, research reports, policy updates and discussion groups are available free on the FCA website. Visit www.caregiver.org or call (800) 445-8106 for more information.
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