We have a giveaway for Family Caregiver Day! And I want to explain why.
Family caregivers are the backbone of the health care system. I have been serving family caregivers since 2013 and many themes have emerged in terms of the caregiver experience. One is that family caregivers are sometimes disregarded by health care staff. They are made to feel like a nuisance. They are made to feel like they should apologize for asking questions. For caring.
In the Change Foundation’s 2019 2nd annual spotlight on Ontario’s caregivers, they stated that they found: “Caregivers believe their family member would not receive the same level of care or attention if they weren’t there.” And we believe this is true. The presence of a caregiver can raise the bar. It means someone else is there to advocate, catch errors or make requests.
The Change Foundation also created a caregiver wish list, which includes (in no particular order):
1. Ask me how I am
2. Feeling listened to
3. Compassion and empathy
4. We have to make them see us
This is consistent with what we’ve heard from clients who have a loved one in hospital or long-term care. We’ve had clients say the health care provider treated them like they were invisible; they walked in and tended to the patient without so much as eye contact. Even though the patient would be discharged into their care shortly. Even though the family caregiver was providing hands-on care to lighten the load of staff. Even though the caregiver was experiencing burnout and hanging on by a thread. Yes, we know staff are very busy. But a smile and “how are you holding up?” takes no extra time. And in truth, many caregivers are not holding up that well. They are stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed.
So we thought, other than providing legal advice, how can we help?
It’s simple, but we came up with this T-shirt. The front says “I’m a Family Caregiver.” But we hope it conveys much more. It’s a way to say, “hi, I’m here and I’m a family caregiver. This is my loved one you are caring for. I probably have some relevant information for you, such as medical history not in the chart or how my loved one was responding to medication last week. I can probably help lighten your workload. I can probably help you take even better care of your patient. I might even be the substitute decision-maker. Please acknowledge my presence.”
The back says “Why I Am Here”, followed by “The Same Reason as You”. Caregivers are not showing up to health care facilities to cause problems, for fun, or because they like expensive parking. It is our hope that the back of this shirt is a reminder: “I’m just here because I care. I'm not here to be a bother. I’m on your team”.
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want one! Our office is in Markham and we can do curbside pickup (free and plenty of parking).
through a difficult time?