With so much focus on the patient, sometimes those who care for them are left out of the equation. In a recent piece for The New York Times, Dhruv Khullar, MD, argues that the health care industry needs to do more for the unpaid, volunteer friends and family that care for those who are sick.
As overworked and under appreciated as family caregivers are, health systems, under pressure to reduce costs, increasingly rely on them to manage illness at home.
Dr. Khullar suggests that providing training programs, counseling and support services and better coordination with providers can go a long way to improving not only patient care, but also their caregivers’ wellbeing. Yet, he says, family caregivers are still a vital aspect of chronic treatment, and rather than being phased out should be supported through industry-wide changes to incorporate them more fully into their loved ones’ treatment.
For many, caring for a loved one provides tremendous purpose and fulfillment. It can deepen relationships and offer the time and space for connection where it otherwise might not exist. It seems that the goal, then, should not be to reduce family caregiving, but to reduce its burdens.