Rethinking Family Care Giving

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Who’s caring for the caregiver?

The National Center on Caregiving at Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) has released a groundbreaking report on care giver assessment. The report states that a fundamental change of thinking in policy and practice is needed to establish the assessment of care givers as a basic component of practice across care settings (home, hospitals, physician offices, and community-based programs).

Families provide approximately 80 percent of the long-term care in this country — the equivalent of 306 billion dollars’ worth. “Assessment” confers formal recognition of these families, who care for loved ones with chronic or debilitating health conditions. While systematic assessment of individuals suffering from chronic or disabling conditions now occurs routinely in medical, health, and social service settings, assessment of their family care givers’ needs is rare. Yet, a large and growing body of research shows that family members who provide long-term care at home are themselves at risk for physical, emotional, and financial problems associated with the care giving role.

Reaching consensus on assessment

In late 2005, 54 nationally recognized experts on care giving, health, and long-term care issues — scholars, practitioners and public officials — attended an intensive two-day conference in San Francisco convened by Family Caregiver Alliance’s National Center on Caregiving. They sought to create a consensus and a catalyst for change at federal, state, and local levels, to strengthen support for caregiving families and to improve quality of care for frail elders and adults with disabilities.

The report comprises of two volumes. Volume I, Caregiver Assessment: Principles and Strategies for Change, reflects the professional consensus achieved at the conference:
Recognition of the importance of systematically assessing a caregiver’s own needs, as part of policy and practice in health care and in home and community-based settings.
Consensus on fundamental principles and practice guidelines that apply to a range of practitioners, providers and care managers in a variety of settings.
Identification of change strategies and actions to advance caregiver assessment as a basic component of practice.
Heightened interest among the invited leaders to take steps to promote caregiver assessment.

Volume II, Caregiver Assessment: Voices and Views from the Field, provides four background papers commissioned for the conference and two personal accounts. Together they portray key issues in care giver assessment and illustrate the direct and powerful consequences of care giving at home on the family members who provide the care and support.

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