Monday, June 15, 2009

At Home Care, Is It In You?

Guest post from NCCU summer intern David L. Fitts Jr.--

Millions of Americans are providing at-home care for a loved one with cancer, yet few feel up to the task.

Cristina Hendrix, assistant professor in the school of nursing, conducted a study that examined how a one-to-one training might help family caregivers of cancer patients improve their confidence and preparedness in caregiving.

Having family caregivers at home allows patients to feel secure and safe. However, Hendrix said that home care is a complicated task that adds to family members' burdens.

In her surveys, Hendrix said many family caregivers reported that they did not feel competent to take on the task. Many reported being stressed and finding the care a significant burden.

“Most cancer caregivers do not feel confident and prepared,” said Hendrix who spoke at the School of Nursing last month.

If a caregiver is not up to the task, Hendrix said that there are consequences for both the caregiver and the cancer patient. Many family caregivers reported feelings of depression when they struggled with caregiving.

One-to-one training of family caregivers before hospital discharge of their loved ones is important to help caregivers, Hendrix said. However, as early as one week after the patient's return, many family caregivers’ sense of competence starts declining again.

Regular communication and training between professional caregivers and the family caregiver can give the family caregiver a continuing sense of competence in their work, she said. Training must be formalized and at home throughout the care-giving period.

With an aging population, this topic will become more important in the future. It’s likely that more people will rely on family caregivers.

Hendrix’s research points to a possible solution to finding the resources to help both caregivers and patients on an issue that we would do well to think about more.

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