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The Truth About Family Caregivers and Home Medical Care

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonDecember 6, 2017
The Truth About Family Caregivers and Home Medical Care

Last Updated: December 6, 2017

Traditional family caregivers help with bathing, dressing and household management. But nearly half of those caregivers also provide medical assistance — some with little to no training.

If you could keep your loved one in the comfort of their own home and out of a nursing facility simply by assisting with their household management and personal care, would you do it? What if it meant taking care of medical tasks normally performed by professionals?

Family Caregivers and Home Medical Care

As it turns out, nearly half of all family caregivers are doing medical tasks, according to a study by the United Hospital Fund and the AARP Public Policy Institute.

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This is why many families are choosing assisted living over having to perform these medical responsibilities.

The study, which surveyed 1,677 caregivers, found that:

  • 69% of home care recipients were age 65 or older and 40% were over age 80
  • 46% of caregivers performed medical or nursing tasks for loved ones with multiple chronic cognitive or physical conditions
  • 53% who assisted with medical tasks also served as care coordinators

The Challenges of Caring for Family Members

Family caregivers already have a wide range of responsibilities, and adding medical treatments on top of household management and personal care can really take a toll.

Few of the caregivers in the survey reported receiving assistance and/or home visits from health care professionals; not surprisingly, many caregivers cited anxieties about making a mistake, particularly with medication management and wound care.

In addition, some caregivers experienced negative effects on their own well-being, from depression to poor health and stress. They also generally felt that they had no other options in terms of caring for their loved ones. A major concern was preventing nursing home placement — most caregivers who performed medical tasks felt that their efforts made a significant contribution to keeping their family member out of a nursing facility.

Ways Caregivers and Professionals Can Help Each Other

The study’s authors call for a collaborative effort among caregivers’ organizations, health care professionals, providers, policymakers and researchers.

“A health care system that relies on untrained and unpaid family members to perform skilled medical/nursing tasks, but does not train and support them, has lost sight of its primary mission of providing humane and compassionate care to sick people and their families,” said the report.

Improved communication between family members, patients and professionals will make it possible to ensure that caregivers have the training they need to perform necessary medical tasks at home.

If you are a family caregiver for a parent or senior loved one — have you found it necessary to take on nursing duties as well as other caregiving tasks? If so, have you received adequate support and training? We’d like to hear your story in the comments below.

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Sarah Stevenson
Sarah Stevenson

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