Authors: Jasneet Parmar: MBBS, MSc, MCFP(COE), Sharon Anderson: MEd, MSc, PhD, Tanya L’Heureux: RD, MAdEd, PhD (c), Lesley Charles: MBChB, CCFP (COE), Bonnie Dobbs: PhD, Peter Tian: MD, MSc
Paramedics work to form effective teams to provide safe, compassionate, and person-centered care by integrating patients, family, and caregivers into decision-making. Family caregivers are the backbone of the healthcare system. Unfortunately, current healthcare policies and practices underrecognize, under-support, and overlook family caregivers. Healthcare systems and training lead many healthcare providers to be ill-equipped and under-resourced to partner with and support family caregivers. Building a sustainable and integrated system of support around family caregivers is essential to support them to maintain their caregiving and own wellbeing.
Listening and responding to the needs of family caregivers can inform best practices in healthcare. This research sought to understand the factors associated with Alberta family caregivers’ mental and physical health. It also asked them what they thought they need to support and maintain their caregiving and own wellbeing.
An online quantitative and qualitative survey was carried out on the University of Alberta REDCap data collection platform from June-August 2021. Qualitative responses were inductively thematically analyzed using Braun & Clarke’s (2021) 6-stage approach.
We received responses from 556 Alberta FCGs. Results highlight the diversity of caregivers’ lives and caregiving experiences. Over the previous 18 months, 58% and 69% had felt their physical and mental health had deteriorated, respectively. Deterioration in health was associated with higher weekly care time, lower self-related confidence to provide emotional support to care-recipients, and financial strain. While calling for more support for care-receivers’ quality of life, family caregivers also indicated that they needed more support to maintain their own wellbeing. Such support included having their caregiver role recognized and valued by healthcare providers, being asked about what they needed to support their caregiving, and receiving timely, tailored, personalized communication from healthcare providers.
Person-centered care with family caregivers ensures quality and safe healthcare, provides more informed decision-making, and increases patient, family, and healthcare provider satisfaction with healthcare interactions. Paramedics are well-positioned to partner with and support family caregivers. They can draw upon insights from this study. Building competencies to recognize, communicate with, and partner with family caregivers, particularly in stressful situations, can enhance paramedics’ interactions with patients and their family caregivers.