Track Family Caregiver Stress and Its Cause

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We think of the health care system as compromising hospitals, outpatient facilities, doctors, rehabilitation services.

Sure, these are part of the health care system. Health care, though, happens in the family. Hospitals, outpatient facilities, doctors and rehab services provide once-in-awhile care.

It's the family members--parents, spouses, adult children, siblings--who provide all-the-time care, day and night, day after day. They change wounds, dispense medications, monitor health, provide activities, prepare special meals, keep health care professionals up-to-date, research options, advocate for the best possible care, make difficult decisions, shop for the the best-priced supplies, give the rides, first notice the problems, often suggest the solutions to health care professionals and keep the faith. They are the health care system.

Consider:

  • 5,564: Total number of hospitals (2017 Fast Facts on U.S. Hospitals)
  • 897,961: Total number of hospital beds (2017 Fast Facts on U.S. Hospitals)
  • 809,845: Total number of physicians (Statistics and Facts on U.S. Doctors)
  • 65.7 million (at least) and growing: Total number of individuals who care for a family member or friend (National Alliance for Caregiving, 2009)

And, yet, we track little about how well these family caregivers are doing. They're doing the heavy lifting in our health care system but we have no ability to track their stress and their own well-being. More importantly, we have no national policy or program to help all of them.

We track flu outbreaks. Why not track family caregiver stress, the true epidemic our communities face? Even if 10% of family caregivers feel stressed, we still have more than 6 million overworked, unpaid and unsupported individuals providing health care. When we understand how many family caregivers are stressed and the reasons for their stress, we have data to lobby for effective solutions and programs to help family caregivers.

According to research released by the Pew Research Center in 2013, about 39% of U. S. adults–up from 30% in 2010–care for an adult or child with significant health issues. We have no infrastructure within the health care system to support, help and care for these family caregivers.

You can help. Just sign the petition and share with your family members and friends and across social media.

Denise and her parents are pictured above. You can read Denise's blog here: http://www.caregiving.com/author/denise/



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