The Future of Caregiving: Could the Mailman Deliver the Solution?


The Future of Caregiving: Could the Mailman Deliver the Solution?

US_Post_Office-Hunt_NY_Jul_11Jersey, an island that's part of Great Britain, will pilot an interesting program in September. The program, called Call and Check service, will use postal workers to make wellness calls in the community. The Jersey Post website includes information about the program:

"The concept of the Call and Check service is that a nominated group of postal workers will call on a person in the community on a regular basis. This might be daily, weekly or as agreed.

"The postie will knock on their door and have a brief chat to ask how they are and whether they have any immediate issues or requests. If they do, we will pass the information on to appropriate partner organisations to action, such as their doctor or the parish. We are in no way proposing postal workers should become health carers or provide medical assistance. We just want to be a regular friendly face that frequently checks on certain individuals and can raise concerns if necessary.

"The postie will also be able to offer other services and assistance. They can deliver repeat prescription, collect post on the individual’s behalf, assist with reminders, such as hospital appointments, or supply information on important Health and Social Services or Parish matters. These additional services will be ‘opt in’, in addition to the basic call and check offering."

What a clever idea! The problem offers solutions to two problems: Keeping postal workers employed and managing the needs of those who may be isolated because of an illness or a caregiving situation.

"One of the main aims of the pilot is to measure outcomes," tweeted Joe Dickinson, who shared information about the program with me through Twitter, "so we know the real value/benefits to the people in the community."

I love this idea because it uses resources already involved in a community--postal workers. With additional training, the postal worker also could act like an outreach coordinator as well as the eyes and ears for long-distance family caregivers. And, perhaps, the actual post office building in our communities could act as our hub for information and referrals. When we're not sure how to get more help, we head to our post office to ask for help.

The mailmen wouldn't provide services but would connect community members to services and perhaps coordinate and oversee service delivery. Perhaps the program includes basic services for a nominal fee with an option to purchase additional services.

Consider the current state of the U.S. Postal Service--the organization lost $16 billion last year. And, consider the state of our country:

  • 19% of our population will be aged 65 and over in 2030, up from 13 percent in 2010. In 2005, 133 million Americans – almost 1 out of every 2 adults – had at least one chronic illness.*

  • About one-fourth of people with chronic conditions have one or more daily activity limitations.**

  • Arthritis is the most common cause of disability, with nearly 19 million Americans reporting activity limitations.***

As we grow older and sicker, we have to tap into a shrinking pool of family caregivers. You can already see the impact here in our online community, as members care for two or three and even four family members.

In her article, The Eldercare Cliff. It's Coming. Are You Ready?, Cali Williams Yost writes:

  • Today there are approximately 5.1 people 16-64 years old to provide care for someone 65 and over, AND to work to pay the taxes that support public programs for the aging.

  • In 2050, or 38 years from now, there will only be 2.9 people ages 16-64 years old to provide unpaid care for every person 65 and over, AND to work to pay taxes to support public programs for the aging.

We already know the limitations today in finding help in our communities for family caregivers. How will we manage care needs in the future? What if we took advantage of a work force already in our communities to provide a helping hand?

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in our comments section, below.


* Wu SY, Green A. Projection of chronic illness prevalence and cost inflation. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Health; 2000.
** Anderson G. Chronic conditions: making the case for ongoing care. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University; 2004.
*** Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation—United States, 2003–2005. MMWR 2006;55:1089–1092. Available from:

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In addition to what Richard <a href='' rel=\"nofollow\">@kreisler</a> and Pegi <a href='' rel=\"nofollow\">@worriedwife</a> have said, this jumped out at me: \"And, perhaps, the actual post office building in our communities could act as our hub for information and referrals. When we’re not sure how to get more help, we head to our post office to ask for help.\" Knowledge is power! I can see local libraries being involved here, too.\r\n\r\nEarlier this year I got help from a postal worker when I was looking for a health department office, which had moved.