Do your loved ones quickly turn to you when medical questions arise? Do you find yourself putting on your 'nurse hat' even when gathered around the holiday table?
Many of us will soon be sitting around the table with different generations of friends and family celebrating the holidays. For some, it may be the first time in a while that you will gather and there will be a lot to catch up on. The holidays are a good time to assess everyone’s well-being, particularly if there are members in your circle with chronic health conditions. I know, as the only nurse in my family, the questions often come at rapid-fire speed!
I am also in that sandwich generation – launching my own children off into the world while supporting aging family members. I am seeing firsthand the physical and emotional impact on family caregivers. It is certainly overwhelming for the whole family, but I am especially concerned for the health and well-being of those providing regular care. I feel lucky as a nurse to be armed with the knowledge and skills to be a strong advocate and source of support.
National Family Caregivers Month
November is National Family Caregivers Month
and the theme this year is #CaregivingHappens. About 14% of American adults serve as caregivers for someone age 50 years or older. When that person is of a certain age or has health problems themselves, it is more challenging, and caring for someone with dementia places caregivers at an even higher risk of stress and illness (Health in Aging, 2022).
Signs of Caregiver Stress
We know that the care we provide as nurses is not solely for an individual patient; our care extends to families and communities. It is important that we are aware of signs of caregiver stress in the families we care for, as well as our own families. These include burnout, self-neglect, alcohol or drug overuse, depression, sleep problems, and financial concerns (Health in Aging, 2022).
How Nurses can Support Family Caregivers
Providing strategies and resources will benefit both the family caregivers and the patient. Ensuring that referrals to appropriate disciplines such as nursing, home health, physical and occupational therapy, social work, etc., is key. It is also important to prioritize patient independence in the plan of care, for example, implementing safety measures, structuring the daily routine, and assessing that medications are correct and appropriate (Hale & Marshall, 2022).
The American Journal of Nursing
maintains a Family Caregivers series
to help nurses provide family caregivers with tools to manage their loved one’s health care at home. Produced in cooperation with the AARP Public Policy Institute, each article includes an informational sheet and links to educational videos for caregivers. They are all free and I encourage you to use these in your practice and share them this holiday season.