Making the Family Caregiver a Part of the Healthcare Team

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , January 14, 2010

Sometimes, physicians believe they provide far more information to caregivers than caregivers believe they receive: Physicians' use, for instance, of medical jargon and technical terminology can be confusing to family members.

3. The physician should recognize the value of family caregivers as a source of continuity regarding the patient's medical and psychosocial history. Sometimes caregivers can find themselves in the shadows, Hood notes.

In a care setting, for instance, caregivers may be treated as if they are in the way. "That's something as providers that we have to change—if it's ever there," Hood says.

"These are incredibly valuable people. They often know more about a patient's history . . . than do some of the other providers because they've been there," she says.

4. When the caregiver is a health care professional, the physician should draw appropriate boundaries to ensure that the caregiver is not expected to function in a professional capacity in relation to the patient.

When the family caregiver is a health professional, caregiving may bring added or unique pressures and ethical challenges, the authors say. The treating physician should assist in setting reasonable patient and family expectations regarding the caregiver's role in interpreting disease processes, prescribing medications, or dealing with new symptoms.

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Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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