Maintaining Sanity: Burnout and Other Challenges for Family Caregivers

By Debby Deutsch | March 4, 2020 Greater National Advocates website https://www.gnanow.org/

Support and assistance are properly focused on the needs of those afflicted with chronic and acute illness, and aging. Cancer Support Community, Alzheimer’s Association, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and many other organizations offer information on services available to help. However, behind every patient, there is usually a family caregiver providing support to the patient on a continual basis. Oftentimes, this family caregiver is a spouse or an adult child of the patient, who may have a career and other family obligations to manage, in addition to seeing to the evolving needs of the patient. 

Besides basic support for the patient, the increasing complexity of our healthcare system has generated an expanding list of challenges. These include a myriad of treatment options, some of which may, or may not, be covered through patient insurance benefits. Even when covered, studies show over 50% of all medical bills contain errors, usually due to improper coding. This has led to a greater challenge in dealing with coverage. Most of us, as healthcare consumers, are feeling the pinch of increased premiums and decreased benefit coverage. All are issues that are oftentimes left to the Family Caregiver to resolve.

“For many family caregivers, the question quickly becomes, how do I adequately simultaneously support the patient, meet my own needs and responsibilities, and maintain my own sanity?” 

Consequently, time management for the Family Caregiver becomes a paramount issue under these circumstances. It is extremely difficult to juggle the various priorities of patient needs, family and career. Particularly when simultaneous time conflicts occur…do I take mom to her doctor appointment or watch my daughters’ volleyball game? Priority conflicts cause extreme angst and stress in many caregivers, to the point of sometimes exhibiting health issues for the caregiver. The question quickly becomes, how do I adequately simultaneously support the patient, meet my own needs and responsibilities, and maintain my own sanity? The answer, if you try to it all yourself, is that you probably won’t succeed in all areas.

Fortunately, help is available through the emerging discipline of patient advocacy. To meet these unique needs, private independent patient advocacy is an emerging service that is becoming available nationwide. Independent Patient are focused on the needs of the patient and caregiver, providing assistance to the caregiver in resolving priority issues with which the caregiver is struggling. Services such as accompanying the patient on doctor visits, investigating billing errors, resolution of billing issues with the healthcare system, both insurers and providers. This assistance, which is available through patient advocates firms, or some community support systems, focus on the unique needs of the patient and result in significant reduction of the stress levels of the caregiver. 

Bottom line, there is a tremendous problem with burnout of the Family Caregiver. The good news…help is available. Professional Independent Patient Advocates are specifically trained to help in a myriad of ways to uniquely support the patient and ease caregiver burnout.

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