Caregivers are individuals who care for someone who is ailing or nearing the end of life. The majority of caregivers are family members, including children, parents, and spouses. Occasionally, close friends and extended family members will take on the role of caregiver. Providing this type of care at home can be an overwhelming responsibility, taxing emotional, physical, and financial resources. Caregivers who assume the role in its entirety, without reaching out for support from others, are at risk for increased negative psychological and physical health outcomes and mortality. Understanding how to best meet the needs of caregivers is important to individuals providing care and those in their charge. Aine Greene of the Discipline, Palliate and Support Services Department at Flinders University in Australia recently compared traditional palliative care to dedicated facilitator assessment intervention in a group of 66 caregivers.
The intervention group was visited on three separate occasions by a facilitator whose only job was to support them and assist them in getting help through various networks of family and friends. If this was not available, the facilitator assisted the caregiver in connecting with community organizations designed to offer additional palliate care help. Greene assessed the two groups before and after the intervention for levels of perceived support, stress, and anxiety and found that the caregivers in the targeted intervention had better outcomes in multiple measures at four and eight weeks post-intervention. “There were objective measures of improved support within the intervention group over time for caregivers through the active engagement of the community network facilitator,” Greene said. Specifically, the intervention group was less fatigued, perceived more social support, and had less resentment about taking on the role of caregiver. Additionally, these participants were more willing to seek out and ask for help when they needed it.
The results demonstrated in this study clearly show that personalized assessments can help caregivers manage the burdens associated with taking care of those they love. Future work should extend these findings by examining caregivers with a more diverse demographic make-up and by measuring outcomes over a longer period of time.
Greene, Aine, Sanchia Aranda, Jennifer J. Tieman, Belinda Fazekas, and David C. Currow. Can assessing caregiver needs and activating community networks improve caregiver-defined outcomes? A single-blind, quasi-experimental pilot study: Community facilitator pilot. Palliative Medicine 26.7 (2012): 917-23. Print.
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