There are many advantages of home based health care. The Home Therapy team counts the ability to work with and support family members and the primary caregiver as one of the benefits we offer…and that we experience. Home Therapy considers the education and support of our patients' family and caregivers an integral part of our services.
The fact is home health is short term care but, many of the care needs of patients may continue to varying degrees depending on the condition and circumstance. Certainly, the needs of patients with dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and victims of stroke, to mention a few, will not end with the termination of the home health episode of care. And, as our population continues to age in place, a growing number of people will be serving as caregivers for family members.
As a result of the increasing number of family caregivers, more and more attention is being given to the health and well-being of the caregivers themselves and, rightfully so. Many studies have documented the prevalence of what is labeled caregiver burden.
Caregiver burden is defined as the strain or load borne by a person who cares for an elderly, chronically ill or disabled family member or other person.
Caregiver burden can manifest in physical, psychological, emotional, social and financial ways. Caregiver burden can ultimately lead to a state of burnout that makes it no longer viable for the caregiver to continue serving in the role of caregiver. Home Therapy wants to help prevent this outcome.
Unfortunately, burnout is often not acknowledged or dealt with until after the symptoms are apparent. Some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout include fatigue, changes in appetite, headaches, difficulty concentrating and reasoning, social isolation, greater use of sarcasm, and increased use of alcohol or other drugs. The most telling signs of burnout may be increased signs of anxiety and feelings of stress that do not go away. Often times, the caregiver will cry easily and often. These symptoms could mean that the caregiver's health could be compromised and should not be ignored.
Home Therapy's goal is to help minimize caregiver burden by offering support. Our support comes in the form of frequent communication and information about the patient's condition and useful instruction on how to care for the patient. We feel confident that our Safe Steps for Seniorssm program that is designed to address the risk of falls will help relieve some stress on the part of the caregiver. We also provide information on community resources and our Medical Social Worker is available to meet with the caregiver to discuss and plan for support needs. Finally, before we discharge the patient, we discuss the transition with the caregiver. We do not want to terminate our care and leave the caregiver feeling lost and isolated.
Beyond our communication about the patient, we focus on the needs of the caregiver. We discuss caregiver burden, help the caregiver identify stress factors and create a support plan.
The following are suggestions a caregiver can do to help prevent or minimize caregiver burden:
Many questionnaires are available to help assess the degree of burden a caregiver is experiencing or perceiving. The most widely acknowledged of these type of questionnaires is the Zarit Burden Interview. The Zarit questionnaire is comprised of 22 questions the caregiver ranks. The Zarit Scale can provide insight into the scope of issues involved in caregiving and serves as a starting point in addressing issues of concern.
Home Therapy administers the Zarit Burden Interview. Please ask your Home Therapy clinician about the questionnaire or contact us at 512-637-1550 or 800-865-6487 if you want more information about caregiver support.