American College of Physicians Recognizes the Role of Family Caregivers

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.

Read more at National Family Caregiver Association website.

New Study Confirms Need for Eldercare Employee Benefits

A poll in the March 2010 issue of Caring Right at Home asked readers to rate various ways employers can support working caregivers. Flexible hours topped the list at 39%, followed by personal leave for caregivers (15%), telecommuting (12%), job sharing (8%) and an eldercare resource line (6%).

This month, we would like to share the results of a new study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute, which sheds new light on the extent to which the challenges of family caregivers impact the American workplace.

Caregivers Are More Likely To Report Health Problems

Working caregiver with headacheIf you are responsible for taking care of an elderly relative or friend, it will likely impact your health and your employer’s bottom line. Employees in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, costing employers an estimated average 8% per year, or $13.4 billion annually, in healthcare costs, according to the MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs.

The report, produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute with the National Alliance for Caregiving in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Aging, also found that younger caregivers (ages 18 to 39) cost their employers 11% more for health care than non-caregivers, and male caregivers cost an additional 18%. It also found that eldercare may be closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol consumption. Exacerbating the potential impact to employers is the possibility that these medical conditions may also lead to disability-related absences.

The MetLife report was drawn from an analysis of 17,000 employees of a major multinational U.S. corporation who completed health risk assessment questionnaires (HRA). Twelve percent of the respondents were caregivers for an older person.

Read more at Right at Home’s website.