Family Caregiving

Blog by Geri Lynn Baumblatt and Pete Wendel

Caregiving is a healthcare issue that tends to fly below the radar but is now impacting more people as our U.S. population age shifts steadily upward. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers have been turning 65 daily since 2011 and about 10,000 more will turn 65 every day for the next 15 years. Many will be managing multiple chronic conditions, including dementia, requiring help from informal/unpaid caregivers — 85% of whom will be family members. Though much is discussed about chronic disease, the impact of family caregiving deserves its own spotlight even as it’s often hidden in plain sight.

What do we know? For starters, caregivers have higher levels of depression, increased social isolation, increased rates of stroke, and engage in higher levels of risky behavior such as smoking and drinking. They often skip their own medical appointments, stop eating well, or getting regular exercise, and they’re often stressed. Studies show that years of caregiving stress can impact their immune systems for up to 3 years after caregiving ends.

Many / most of us will become caregivers at some point. Already, 25% of family caregivers ar millennials. Additionally, people are often working full time jobs (or multiple jobs in the growing gig economy) when the need to care for someone occurs. Yet, caregiving is one of the least planned for events for individuals and employers.

This is problematic for caregiver employees and employers. Employees may suddenly need to navigate at work as doctors call, people need time off to take their family member to appointments, or sleep deprivation robs them time to focus. Experienced, senior level staff can be doubly stressed with older adult parents at one end and teens with special needs (such as skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression) at the other.

Nurses are often the first ones their families call upon for help. And experienced nurses are difficult to find and retain in a tough healthcare job market. So, to shine a light on caregivers within healthcare, we decided to take a closer look at nurses who are family caregivers.

As caregiving experts, how does it affect them personally and professionally? And since they work at healthcare organizations, do those workplaces understand their challenges?

But this isn’t just about nurses and healthcare employers. What is the future of health and work for family caregivers and employers?

Connect & share beyond today’s #HCLDR chat

Help us find out more about what can be done with and for Caregivers:

If you work at a hospital or healthcare organization as manager, director or leader – or as part of a medical staff assistance program or HR: take this brief survey:

If you are a nurse and you’ve ever taken care of for a friend or family member, take this survey:

The information gathered in these surveys will be aggregated and presented in November at the National Caregiving Conference in Chicago as part of the Family Caregiving and the Workplace Summit. This will include 2 panels: the first with nurse family caregivers, and a second panel with people in leadership positions at organizations that employ nurses. This will be followed by a participatory lab to work with attendees, including many working family caregivers, to identify opportunities and barriers, and to serve as a spark to action beyond the conference.

Please join us as we guest host the next HCLDR tweetchat on Tuesday September 11 at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will be discussing the challenges of family caregiving:

  • T1 How do you see family caregiving affecting the workplace as an employee, manager, or leader, etc?
  • T2 How has family caregiving had an impact on your own health and wellbeing — or on someone close to you?
  • T3 Given that many people don’t self-identify as family caregivers or feel uncomfortable talking about it at work, how could employers help and support family caregivers?
  • T4 What kinds of resources and policies would have meaningful impact on caregivers and their employers?

About the Authors

Geri Lynn Baumblatt MA. For the last 20 years, Geri has created resources to help people understand health conditions and procedures, orient them to their diagnoses, make more informed decisions about their care, and partner with their care teams.  She oversaw the creation of the Emmi program library and products.  She regularly speaks and serves on projects for patient engagement, patient experience, health literacy, shared decision making, and family caregiving for organizations like AHRQ, Connected Health, the Brookings Institute, and the Beryl Institute. She serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Patient Experience, is on the board of the Society for Participatory Medicine, and recently published a chapter in Transformative Healthcare Practice through Patient Engagement (IGI Global). She works with mission driven organizations to improve patient engagement, health communication, and the health and well being of all caregivers. @GeriLynn

Pete Wendel. Pete helps people and organizations make smarter decisions, empower others, and change behavior through behavioral systems design leadership. Pete is a User Experience Manager at Walgreens and a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. His interests and experience with research and design include understanding and empowering Caregivers, creating new service models for brain/mental health, game design for health and learning, and intergenerational healthcare. Pete’s innovation, research, and design leadership experiences range from product and service innovation at global corporations (Whirlpool, Microsoft, Walgreens), to thought leadership at Carnegie Mellon’s Quality of Life Technology Center. Pete has been an invited speaker, workshop author/facilitator, and/or published with numerous organizations, including the international Service Design Network, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and institutions including IIT’s Institute of Design, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Chicago. Pete advises mission driven organizations, from enterprise to start-up, and from grass roots community movements to large non-profits, to realize the potential of design for improving people’s lives at scale and in sustainable ways. @petewendel

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