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The Care You Give

Friday, October 11, 2019
Geri Lynn Baumblatt
We ask a lot of clinicians and caregivers. And increasingly, their families ask more of them as well. They’re usually the first ones their families turns to when a relative or close friend needs care.
This informal family caregiving is often more challenging than medical professionals expect: dealing with insurance, other clinicians who may or may not see them as care partners, challenging family dynamics, etc. It also means they don’t get a break from caregiving. As we know, the employee experience is the foundation for a good patient experience.
And family caregiving can have a huge impact on the caregiver’s health, wellbeing, and it can contribute to burnout. The need to take expected and unexpected leave is also a big challenge for managers and teams. There can be compassion fatigue. And the caregiver can feel like they’re a burden or source of frustration to their team when they need to take unexpected leave, etc. Increasingly, people go part time or even quit their jobs to accommodate family caregiving.
As the need for family caregivers continues to grow, I’m partnering with researchers to study how hospitals might better support their nurses and other employees who are also family caregivers. For example, since we know that the median length of caregiving is 5 years1, and that 12 to 15% of caregiving goes on for 10-15 years2:
  • How might we better partner with employees to plan for extended caregiving?
  • Also, what services or resources would help them and their families? 
  • And how can we help managers who need to be compassionate and still make sure they’re staffed to deliver quality care?
These questions are part of in-flight research. If you’re interested to participate in it, please contact me: I’ll also be sharing out findings from this and our 2018 research on nurse/family caregivers on a free webinar (see below).
How might we honor and learn from these experiences employees have on the other side of the bed?
What Hospitals Can Do Now
Everyone wants their experience to mean something and to help others. One way to engage nurses and employees who are currently family caregiving or when they return from extended caregiving is to ask them:
What insights do you have from your experience that could help the organization better support and engage the families we serve?

A Last Note
I’ve been blogging about patient engagement for AfPE since 2013. While I’ll continue to write, I’m broadening my focus and audience, and this is my last blog for this series. I’d like to thank Jim Merlino for asking me to blog, and all the co-authors who shared their insights, work, experiences, and research. I learned a great deal from all of them and made amazing friends in the process. Thanks to everyone for your comments and for reading! You can find me on Twitter @GeriLynn and @DiffCollab. Watch for my column on the Healthcare Scene.
1Committee on Family Caregiving for Older Adults; Board on Health Care Services; Health and Medicine Division; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Schulz R, Eden J, editors. Families Caring for an Aging America. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 Nov 8. 2, Older Adults Who Need Caregiving and the Family Caregivers Who Help Them. Available from:
2 National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 Report.
Free Webinar: Designing a More Humane Workplace: Supporting Employees who Juggle Working & Caregiving
Catch up with me Nov 8-9 at the 4th Annual National Caregiving Conference in Chicago.

Geri Lynn Baumblatt MA, For the last 20 years, Geri has worked to help people understand health conditions and procedures, orient them to their diagnoses, make more informed decisions about their care, and partner with their care teams.  She oversaw the creation of the Emmi program library, and she regularly speaks and serves on patient engagement, patient experience, health literacy, shared decision making, health design, family caregiving, and heath communication panels for organizations like AHRQ, the Brookings Institute, Stanford Medicine X, and the Center for Plain Language. She serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Patient Experience, is on the board of the Society for Participatory Medicine, and published a chapter in Transformative Healthcare Practice through Patient Engagement (IGI Global). She currently consults on patient engagement, family caregiving, and health communication. Follow her on Twitter @GeriLynn

Tags: family caregiver, engagement, perspective
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