If you’ve ever sat in a physician’s office with your loved one and wondered if you were invisible, there may now be a reason to feel hopeful. The American College of Physicians (ACP), a national organization of internists, recently published a position paper aimed at recognizing the important role that family caregivers play in the lives of millions of individuals dealing with chronic conditions and/or the frailties of old age.
Family Caregivers, Patients and Physicians: Ethical Guidance to Optimize Relationships is an effort by the ACP to provide “ethical guidance to physicians in developing mutually supportive patient-physician-caregiver relationships.” The purpose of the paper is to help physicians recognize the value of family caregivers to the health and well-being of their patients. At the same time, the authors provide ethical guidance to physicians, who must balance this recognition with their duty to “preserve the primacy of the patient-physician relationship.”
The authors define family caregivers to include “relatives, partners, friends and neighbors who assist with activities of daily living and complex healthcare needs that were once the domain of trained hospital personnel.” They outline a list of specific recommendations aimed at assisting physicians to develop mutually supportive relationships not only with their patients, but with family caregivers as well.
After years of advocating for the physician community to recognize and support the role of family caregivers, NFCA is excited to see a major physician organization address this crucial challenge. In an effort to better explain what this paper means to all family caregivers, we posed some questions to the American College of Physicians.