Thursday, March 31, 2016

'Invisible work' takes toll on unpaid caregivers

Public Release: 15-Feb-2016
'Invisible work' takes toll on unpaid caregivers
Family and friends who help with health care more likely to experience emotional, physical and financial difficulties
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Unpaid family and friends who assist older people with disabilities by coordinating doctor appointments and managing medications are significantly more likely to experience emotional, physical and financial difficulties than caregivers who don't provide this type of support, new research finds.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers, reporting in the Feb. 15 JAMA Internal Medicine, say such caregivers are also three times more likely to be less productive at work due to distraction and/or fatigue, a phenomenon called "presenteeism," as well as outright absenteeism. Researchers say this shows that there is a significant - and often unrecognized - cost borne by employers.

"A lot of work goes into managing the care of people with complex health needs, and this work is borne not only by health care providers and patients, but also by their families," says Jennifer L. Wolff, PhD, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School.


Wolff says the caregiver is often the linchpin in the health care of older adults, making sure that treatment plans developed by physicians are being carried out at home, but their role often goes unrecognized in the fragmented American health care system. She says that caregivers need to be included and supported as members of the health care team and given greater access to information about patients' health and treatments, which is often a challenge because of federal patient privacy laws.

Wolff says health care providers can do a better job of involving caregivers when they accompany patients to medical appointments, recognizing their key roles and more purposefully engaging them.


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