Family members who are faced with caring for their ill, aged or disabled relatives often will ask nurses for information and guidance about the array of issues related to caregiving. Often they find the tasks of planning for and/or providing physical, emotional, or financial assistance overwhelming. Most have little or no experience with health care systems, community services, and the legal process. Many have misconceptions about financial responsibilities. In a nutshell, they often are illprepared for this challenge.
Families will typically direct their questions and concerns to nurses, who are the gatekeepers of information. However, nurses, themselves, admit they lack a specific approach to giving assistance about this planning process. Nurses often are confused about the amount and type of information to offer. Nurses also report a need to obtain information on the family's caregiving knowledge and future plans.
In response to these needs in an ambulatory care general medicine teaching clinic, the authors devised a systematic method using a checklist to help nurses educate families about planning for care. The "Family Caregiver Checklist" is intended to serve as a guide that can be adapted for use in multiple settings. It can be used as a patient education tool and given to families who request information about home care, family issues, community resources, and other general information. The checklist also can serve as a data collection tool for nurses to determine the status of family planning for home and long-term care.
To date, the checklist has been used in a variety of ambulatory clinics in a university setting. It is given to family members or primary caregivers when they accompany the patient to physician or clinic visits, when preparing for discharge from the hospital, or when home visits are made. The family member(s) is informed that the checklist is a planning guide for the future care of their relative and that it also will help nurses determine whether the family members need assistance. Each section is filled in and initialed by the nurse. A copy is placed in the patient's permanent record. The authors recommend, if possible, that a brief resource list of local home care and community-based service providers and phone numbers accompany the checklist. The provided list would include resources, such as mental health/ social service agencies, legal /financial services, support groups, hotlines, information and referral resources.
Families have reported that the checklist has been extremely helpful in assisting them to "think about" all the facets of planning for care. They are particularly pleased that they have something in writing that has been discussed with them. The nurses who use the checklist to provide family consultation and patient education state they are better able to document the information that has been provided. This information then can be shared with other members of the health care team.
As nurses become even more responsible for assisting family members with planning for the short- and long-term care needs of their relatives, a standardized format for providing pertinent information becomes imperative. When equipped with this checklist, the authors hope nurses will find the process of caregiver education more efficient and effective.
Family Coreglver Checklist
Family Coreglver Checklist
- Gruetzner, H. Alzheimer's disease: A caregiver's guide and source book. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1988.
- Heath, A. Long distance ozregrómg: A survival guide fur far away caregivers. Lakewood, CO American Source Books, 1993.
- Smith, K-S. Caring for your aging parents. Lakewood, CO: American Source Books, 1992.