Health Care Professionals Need to Identify Us as Family Caregivers

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Health Care Professionals Need to Identify Us as Family Caregivers

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help-1013700_640I shared an article I wrote last week (We Need Your Numbers to Adequately Fund Your Help) with a few colleagues. In the article, I complain that we don't know how many individuals in the U.S. care for a family member or friend.

My colleagues both responded, "We don't know the numbers because family caregivers don't self-identify." Meaning, as you care for a family member or friend, you don't call yourself a "caregiver".

Oh, gosh, this statement makes me as crazy today as it did 10 years ago and then again two years ago (Read: ARGH!!! to Family Caregivers Don't Self-Identify.) (A side note: A few national caregiving organizations perpetuated this "family caregivers don't self-identify" idea more than a decade ago and continue to do so today. One of those organizations uses the term "caregiver" in its name. If individuals you are trying to serve don't identify with the term "caregiver," then why do you call yourself "Caregiver Action Network"?)

It's important to note that family caregivers don't self-identity--they don't initially relate to the term "caregiver" or "family caregiver." It's also critical to know that this isn't the real problem. The true dilemma is that health care professionals, who interact with family caregivers over and over, do not identify family caregivers. Doctors and nurses see us with our carees. They interact with us as we advocate, provide care, learn care, ask questions, offer suggestions, make treatment decisions and lobby for solutions. They see us in our role as family caregiver. It doesn't matter what we call what we do--the health care professionals witness it. They could--they should--intervene and share resources and support with us.

More times than not, they don't.

Health care professionals could make such a difference if they identified us as family caregivers. And, once health care professionals identify us as family caregivers, we'll know how many family caregivers we have in the U.S.

Which is why my petition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track family caregiver stress and its source is so important. It requires health care professionals to interact with family caregivers--to understand their circumstances and situations and to then offer solutions and support.

You can help make this happen:

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