Helping Family Caregivers
Many years ago, long before the Internet, I suddenly became a caregiver for my father when the final stages of his cancer were too much for my mother to handle alone. Without any training or advice, I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the role reversal of child caring for parent. At first, the tasks were easy, comprising little more than helping Dad by running errands or driving him to appointments. As his disease progressed, so did my involvement with his care. I figured out how to help him with bathing and changing his colostomy bag while trying to maintain a sense of dignity for both of us. The dignity didn’t last long, as his needs grew and his abilities diminished. By the time his life ended, I was intimately involved in every aspect of his daily life. Although his final months had drained me physically and emotionally, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. We both, finally, came to understand how much we meant to each other.
Today, things have changed for the better. Training and advice are readily available online. Want to know how to change a colostomy bag? There’s a video on the Internet that shows the process in detail. Need information about financial assistance with lifesaving medication? It’s on the Net. Looking for help with the emotional roller coaster that caregivers often experience? A wealth of resources are available online.
It’s a good thing that caregiver education is available because the number of people who become family caregivers is growing, and growing fast. In 2010, 30% of adults were family caregivers, with almost two-thirds of them supporting a parent or in-law. By 2012, the number had jumped to 39%, and this trend is expected to continue. Fueling the trend is an aging population, the recent economic downturn that has reduced the use of paid, professional caregivers, and improved healthcare that extends lifespans.
Extended lifespans are a wondrous development, but they place a larger demand on family caregivers. As modern medicine develops new therapies, family caregivers may need more education about disease states and therapy options to help their loved ones make the best possible choices. Once the best option has been selected, the regimen can require a large number of medications and dosing schedules to keep track of. Even the ideal regimen is of little value if medicines aren’t taken as directed. The help of a caregiver can make a dramatic difference.
For example, COPD patients with spousal caregivers had 19% higher adherence to antihypertensive medication and 33% higher adherence to long-acting beta agonist medication, compared to a group without caregivers.
COPD is not an isolated example. Among cardiac patients, 39% reported being prescribed 7 or more medications, and one in four reported being non-adherent to their medications. Patients with a caregiver were 40% more likely to be adherent to their medications, compared to a group without caregivers.
So, caregivers can make a significant difference. But, they are unlikely to do so unless they are educated about their loved ones’ disease states, treatment options, and the best ways to ensure adherence. The problem is that there is little treatment-specific information available online. The reams of general information that is available may be of little use in our age of increasingly targeted therapies.
Fortunately, Artcraft Health Education can provide caregivers with most everything they need. Our service offering includes:
- Disease-state education
- Education for caregivers on how to assist loved ones in choosing therapy options
- A wide variety of adherence aids, including:
- Education detailing the rationale behind and value of strict adherence
- Appointment and medication reminders
- Usage instructions
- Injection kits
- Mobile and tablet tracker apps
- Demo injection pens with sound chips and scrolling instructions
- Infusion mats
- Pill organizers, dispensers, and vials
- Measured dosage dispensers
Over the years, being a caregiver has changed for the better. A wealth of great general health information can be found online. But, caregivers still need specialized education if they are to fulfill the promise of the latest medical advances. Contact Artcraft Health Education today and learn how our caregiver materials can help you improve health outcomes and achieve your marketing objectives.
Tom Savonick - Medical Writer