Family caregivers make long-term services and supports work, and yet the risks and challenges to their own health and well-being are often unseen or disregarded.
The March 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showcases articles on such risks and burdens, as well as an editorial by Dr. Joanne Lynn on strategies to ease those burdens. Lynn, director of Altarum Institute’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness, writes of essential changes in how society treats caregivers; how employers support caregivers; how clinicians assess caregiver burdens and recommend services; and how federal and state policy and budgets can be reformed.
She responds to issues raised in a featured article about a dire situation: an 84-year old family caregiver attempted suicide to escape the burdens of caregiving for her 88-year old husband. Caregivers can be “invisible patients” whose health and emotional needs must be assessed and addressed. As tens of millions of Americans reach old age, these problems will become even more widespread.
Lynn suggests that we must act now if we are to change the course for ourselves and those we love. Her MediCaring model presents one possibility for doing so; her JAMA viewpoint can be downloaded here.
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