The US healthcare delivery system simultaneously ignores and relies heavily on family caregivers to provide ongoing support. These caregivers provide the largest share of long-term supports and services to elderly Americans. They often shoulder the responsibility of planning and coordinating care as their family members transition through the healthcare system. Caregivers often manage medical tasks for which they are not well trained. With the increase in the average lifespan, both patients and caregivers are older and the sustainability of family caregiving is threatened.
Formalized healthcare processes seldom include integration of family caregivers in primary care practice. The project team will work toward innovations that can be adopted within primary care clinics, including work flows to facilitate integration of caregivers into care processes and effective communication to assure acceptance of these new processes by caregivers and providers. Family caregivers will become recognized assets to the primary care practice.
The project team’s objective is to identify best practices for including family caregivers in primary care. The team will work to establish a strong community identity and shared understanding as a foundation for the work. Through colearning, the researchers will refine practices for including family caregivers in primary care teams to achieve outcomes of value to caregiver/patient dyads and to primary care providers.
With the project team’s partner HealthInsight, the researchers will conduct four hands-on conference sessions with a broad and diverse group of stakeholders.
Conference speakers will present established knowledge about caregiving and primary care redesign and explore innovations that could facilitate integration of caregivers into primary care teams. Drawing upon the expertise of caregiver/patient dyads and providers, the team will refine work flows and clinic processes so that they might lead to outcomes valued by caregiver/patient dyads and feasible for providers in busy clinical settings.
The ultimate outcome of the series of events will be user guides for providers and caregivers that detail strategies for inclusion of family caregivers in primary care teams and that promote active engagement of caregivers in decision making and hands-on care for elderly patients. By sharing information about innovative practices and through consensus decision making about processes that can have optimal impact, the conference sessions will lead to the articulation of strategies that can be implemented in clinical practice to improve clinic operations and enhance communication between care team members and with family caregivers.
The project team will engage caregiver/patient dyads, some of whom have been with the project for years and others who will be new. Caregiver/patient stakeholders and primary care providers will participate in planning and will attend the conferences. These stakeholders will be the core of the conference planning team, recommending speakers and specific learning objectives.