For all of the medical providers involved in Long Term Care, there is one medical provider who is often unseen and unheralded: the unpaid caregiver.
The New York Times has done a beautiful job recently painting a picture of all of the different faces these caregivers can have. She is the niece of the widower. He is the son who lives with the filmmaker father. They are the aides and volunteers from residential facilities, rehabilitation centers, and nonprofits.
According to the Institute of Medicine, unpaid caregivers provide 90 percent of long-term care for the old or disabled.
These caregivers are an integral, indispendale piece in the patchwork of care for people -- whether older people or people with chronic conditions. These might be individuals within a residential Long Term Care setting or people living at home. For example, Mr. Sorensen, 90, relies on regular visits from his niece, weekly visits from three home attendants, and biweekly visits from a nonprofit that sends volunteers.
Because so many different people are involved, with different skill sets and levels of investment in the individual's care, it becomes a crucible of healthcare collaboration. It's a situation, for most people, where medical collaboration is both acutely necessary and uniquely challenging.
3 Unique Lessons About Healthcare Collaboration That Unpaid Caregivers Demonstrate:
- Coordination of care may be the most powerful influencer in a good outcome.
Because there are so many different people involved in each person's care -- and with some of those people unpaid -- coordination of care becomes critical. Each person has a piece of the puzzle but there will always be gaps (for instance if an aide can't come in). So it is imperative that there be a mechanism for communication. When coordination doesn't happen effectively, there can be confusion about medication, care that doesn't adjust up or down with abilitiy changes, and there can be actual gaps in attention.
- No one is in just one kind of care context.
The New York Times describes a common situation, from the perspective of Ms. Kornblum, a woman caring for several elderly family members. "It was part of her mother’s regular rotation, Ms. Kornblum said: assisted living to intensive care to rehabilitation, then back to assisted living." These resources are deployed at different times for different reasons -- but the patient, the person, must be cared for across all of them. The information that the rehab center (for instance) has about the patient must be transmitted to the caregivers when the patient is discharged. That's why communication and healthcare collaboration is key.
- There just aren't enough resources.
Home healthcare tends to be slightly less than people need, so those hours and dollars need to be maximized. We've seen in home-based healthcare settings for example, that if aides are empowered, through the use of telemedicine, to access opinions from other providers and specialists, then resources are much more efficiently used.
Ultimately, those involved in Long Term Care -- whether paid or unpaid caregivers -- are some of the most creative, intrepid providers around. They face unique challenges and meet them in ways that provider all medical providers with helpful insights.
If you are involved in Long Term Care, download our free ebook on the most supportive, immediate things we believe can help transform it: