The Coronavirus Pandemic Highlights Why Family Caregivers Need to Be Integrated into the Health Care Team and Shows Us How to Make It Happen

by Esther M. Friedman, Patricia K. Tong, Robert S. Rudin

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There are currently about 53 million family members in the United States providing care to loved ones. These family caregivers might be supporting a parent, a disabled child, or a spouse with a chronic illness by assisting with everyday activities, such as eating, bathing, dressing, driving, and taking medications. These caregivers provide a significant portion of health and support services in the United States to individuals with serious illnesses but are often overlooked by existing health care systems. Family caregivers cannot easily share important clinical or social information with other care providers or receive the necessary information to effectively support their loved ones. Trying to provide care in this environment can be burdensome to family caregivers and detract from more productive work, breeding frustration for all parties, undermining the quality of care provided, increasing unmet care needs, and generating adverse physical and mental health consequences for both caregivers and care recipients.

The authors describe why, in light of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it is more critical than ever to integrate family caregivers into patients' health care teams and highlight several solutions for accomplishing this goal.

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