Caring for the Caregivers: How Family Caregivers View Their Personal Health Care

Being a caregiver to a family member or friend can be a daunting, yet rewarding task. A recent study explored the types of supports needed by family caregivers.

A sample of 3,026 US adults, age 30 to 89, responded to a survey with questions related to their personal health care experiences and access, as well as access to caregiver support resources. About half were caregivers of a family member or friend and half were non-caregivers. Demographically, caregivers tended to be older (57 years vs 50 years), more likely to be female (60% vs 46%), and reported more chronic health conditions.

Regarding access to personal health care, caregivers and non-caregivers reported a similar level of difficulty seeing their primary care provider when needed and getting emergency care. However, caregivers reported greater difficulty accessing more specialized services for themselves, such as mental health services, dental services, medications, and home health care services. In spite of greater difficulty accessing services, caregivers also reported being more satisfied with their personal health care experience.

Considering the nature of being a caregiver, it may not be surprising that these respondents valued home-based and virtual services. Caregivers placed higher importance on being able to receive health care services at home and on having a long-term relationship with their primary care provider. While both caregivers and non-caregivers thought it would be helpful to have access to web portals, caregivers were more likely to find house calls, telemedicine, and medication delivery to be helpful.

As for caregiving resources, about one in five caregivers (19%) reported they had hardly any or none of the support needed to provide ongoing care. These caregivers were more likely to be younger, Hispanic, or have lower income. This is not a small number of caregivers who do not have the support they need. One step toward addressing this issue may be for supportive services to put greater focus on these populations.

 

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Source:

Slaboda JC, Nelson SH, Agha Z, and Norman GJ. A national survey of caregiver’s own experiences and perceptions of U.S. health care system when addressing their health and caring for an older adult. BMC Health Services Research (2021); 21(101).

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