You could be the one thing standing in between an elderly loved one and an unnecessary trip to the hospital, according to a University of Wisconsin study. Family caregivers act as an important safeguard, possibly preventing their aging family members from being re-admitted to the hospital unnecessarily.
Researchers discovered that a senior’s risk for returning to the hospital was significantly slashed if they were cared for by an “informal caregiver“—typically a spouse or an adult child.
Outside of the physical care tasks (bathing, dressing, medication management, etc.) that these family members performed, study authors learned that the psychological and social support family caregivers provided played an important role in keeping their aging loved ones healthy.
The investigation examined the records of over 1,200 Medicare beneficiaries being cared for in their homes.
The goal of the study was to determine how certain social environmental factors including whether or not a senior lived alone, or was being cared for by an informal caregiver, affected their chances of re-hospitalization (being re-admitted to the hospital within 60 days of being released).
More than just another care provider
Family caregivers appear to be so essential because they are capable of providing the emotional encouragement their ailing family members so desperately needed.
Seniors who received adequate amounts of social support from a family member were better able to take care of themselves and engage in healthy behaviors that allowed them to remain living in their homes. They were also more likely to seek out medical attention for themselves when health problems arose.
For those seniors who were unwilling (or unable) to seek medical assistance, family caregivers also often filled the vital role of advocate, recognizing and pursuing necessary medical care for their senior relatives.
According to study authors, “Informal caregivers are part of the solution in preventing unnecessary hospitalizations and more attention needs to be given to how these caregivers are supported in their roles.”
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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor