As Americans provide an estimated 40 billion hours of unpaid home care for family members each year, it is increasingly important to ensure that the needs of these caregivers are being met and that their well-being is maintained, says AARP’s Public Policy Institute in a recent study of caregivers.
Because they are unpaid and are often willing to provide care for older family members, the importance of assessing this population can be overlooked, says AARP. Assessments that determine the needs of the care recipient, address the caregiver’s situation and result in a plan of care are crucial components, AARP outlines in its Fundamental Principles for Caregiver Assessment.
The unpaid hours caregivers work comprise an economic value of $450 billion, according to AARP. If caregivers are not cared for, their situation can become a public health issue not only to the care recipient, but to the provider as well, according to Lynn Feinberg, senior strategic policy advisor for AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
“Caring for an older relative or friend has been viewed as a public health issue because of the physical, emotional and financial costs involved in providing the care,” said Feinberg.
Many current assessment programs only consider the “willingness and ability” of individuals to provide care for family members, and neglect to take into consideration the caregiver’s well-being, according to AARP.
AARP outlines a plan of action in assessing caregivers that includes evaluating each caregivers situation, problems they will face and strengths they possess. Also included in an assessment should be caregivers’ abilities to meet the needs of their patient with available resources are also addressed.
Assessing this population of people also helps them feel acknowledged and validates their position as care providers.
Additionally, ensuring that the provider has the proper resources and contacts to communicate with health care or social service professionals about their and their recipient’s situation is not only something that should be considered, but can improve individual home care outcomes.
The AARP Public Policy Institute is currently reviewing caregiver assessment tools and protocols through a collaborative project with the Family Caregiver Alliance. In conducting the project, AARP aims to get a better understanding of caregiving assessment needs.
“We are hoping there is greater recognition in families’ roles in long term care,” said Feinberg. “If a care plan involves care from family members, the care plan should assess the support needed by the family caregivers as well.”
Read the full AARP report here.
Written by Erin Hegarty