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Family Caregiver Stress Impacts Preventable Hospital Readmissions

When it comes to any type of long-term family caregiving, the caregiver may neglect their own health, well-being and finances due to focusing solely on their family members care and safety. Caring for the family caregiver is essential for the best health and safety at home, and will reduce preventable hospital readmits.
The most common type of family caregivers are adult children caring for elderly parents. Of the United States 52 million caregivers, 67% are middle-aged women (49-years) of which 37% have children of their own. 61% of these people have full-time jobs and studies show the demand for caregivers is expected to grow by 48% within the next decade.

This can lead to systemic stress resulting in denial, anger, feeling Isolated, anxiety, depression, exhaustion and sleeplessness. These outcomes can lead to severe emotional reactions, lack of concentration and physical health problems. Furthermore, family caregiver stress directly impacts the quality of care which creates potential readmits. Mistakes are more common: Medications, treatments and communication with doctors. Patience is thinner leading to frustration, isolation, anger, guilt and resentment. Focus wanes and leads to forgetfulness, lower retention and comprehension as well.

These issues can lead to “emergency” situations, which generally lead to preventable hospital readmissions. The “goal” should be the health and safety of the patient, but not at the expense of the family caregiver.

Discussing the potential health risks for both patient/family caregiver and providing a comprehensive referral resource list will help to reduce preventable readmits. It will also allow family caregivers to reclaim their family-member roles:

• Professional referral resource provider lists help reduce preventable readmissions:
– In-Home Caregiving agencies to help reduce caregiver and patient stress
– Home Health for services at home instead of going out for therapy
– Adult Day Centers for respite care in order for both to re-energize
– Transportation services to safely transport to appointments/outings
– Hospice organizations to receive additional support and guidance

• Low cost/free resources:
– Friends, Extended Family Members and Neighbors
– Community Churches & Adult/Senior Community Centers
– Department of Human Services/Aging and People with Disabilities
– Caregiver Co-Ops
– Support Groups for both patient and family caregiver, including “grief” support

• Local and national support organizations:
– Arch Network Resource Center/Respite Locator: Archrespite.org
– The Alzheimer’s Association: alz.org/Oregon
– The American Association of Retired Persons: AARP.org
– Elders in Action, elder advocacy: Eldersinaction.org
– Meals on Wheels, In-Home Supplemental Meal Delivery: Mealsonwheelspeople.org
– Women Caregiver Support: Womenshealth.gov
– Caregiver Online Support Groups & Other Non-Profit Organizations: Caring.com
– Aging & Disability Resource Connection of Oregon: ADRCofOregon.org
– 211 Info, free Info on 3000 Agencies: 211info.org
– Friendly House, Neighborhood Center & Social Service Agency: friendlyhouseinc.org

By focusing on the discharge process and post-discharge care with patient and family, hospitals and care providers can reduce the number of preventable readmissions, improve patient outcomes and avoid costly penalties.

By Toby Forsberg, March 2017

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