Nov 08, 2021

Nurses Supporting Family Caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and the American Journal of Nursing features a new series of articles and resources for nurses to help support family caregivers, who “provide the majority of long-term care in the United States and who are vital, yet often invisible, members of the health care team,” Heather Young, PhD, RN, FAAN, Susan C. Reinhard, PhD, RN, FAAN and Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, write in an introduction to the series.

Report cover of Home Alone Revisited: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Care

Noting that the pandemic has brought greater awareness to both aging health issues and the role of family caregivers, the trio highlight research from AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) and the other founding members of the Home Alone Alliance, a collaborative of AARP, that shows a large gap between what family caregivers need to know to provide complex care at home and what health care professionals do to prepare them.  They point to 45 “how-to” videos produced by the Home Alone Alliance, to address issues that family caregivers prioritized in national surveys.

Supporting Family Caregivers in the 4Ms of an Age-Friendly Health System was published in collaboration with the AARP Public Policy Institute as part of its ongoing Supporting Family Caregivers: No Longer Home Alone series. Reinhard is senior vice president and director of AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, as well as for family caregiving initiatives.

The 4Ms of an age-friendly health system are: What Matters, Medication, Mentation, and Mobility. They are an evidence-based framework for assessing and acting on critical issues in the care of older adults across settings and transitions of care. “Engaging the health care team, including older adults and their family caregivers, with the 4Ms framework can help to ensure that every older adult gets the best care possible, is not harmed by health care, and is satisfied with the care they receive,” the first article’s abstract reads.

The series will “present considerations for implementing the 4Ms framework in the inpatient hospital setting and incorporating family caregivers in doing so.” Resources for both nurses and family caregivers, including a series of accompanying videos developed by AARP and the Rush Center for Excellence in Aging and funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation, are also provided.

“We recognize that the past two years have been especially challenging—with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased health inequities resulting from systemic racism,” Young, Reinhard and Fulmer wrote in an AJN guest editorial. “These forces have illuminated both the essential nature of family support and the ways our systems fail older adults and their families. If you are like many nurses, you have been involved in caregiving issues in your own family, either directly or in support of others. We appreciate the dual role so many nurses balance as family caregivers and trusted health care professionals.”

“As the most trusted professionals, nurses have the opportunity to make a difference for family caregivers by engaging them, listening to their concerns and priorities, providing instruction and support, and linking them to the resources they need.”