Supporting family caregivers
I appreciate the article, “Easing the Burden on Family Caregivers” (August, 2013)* because, as a nurse leader in a primary stroke center, I witness firsthand how devastating a stroke can be to patients and family members. Education of the family caregivers is essential during this difficult time, and nurses must make the most of every opportunity to teach patients and families.
My organization has developed a checklist that's posted at the patient's bedside with all of the goals that must be met before he or she is discharged. The checklist encourages teaching at any given moment so the family caregiver won't be overwhelmed on the day of discharge. The checklist also provides space for notes or comments to encourage further dialog or instruction, if needed. We've incorporated the checklist into our electronic medical record system, making it easy for all disciplines to use and document teaching provided. The checklist has become an invaluable tool to promote family-centered care and a successful transition from hospital to home.
Caregiver role strain is a significant issue for patients and their families that we, as nurses, don't always address appropriately. My primary area of nursing practice is in a busy ED, where it can be very challenging to spend time with families. I suggest that ED nurse directors consider implementing a process whereby a nurse who's a member or coordinator of the stroke team spends time with any identified caregivers from the initial ED visit through discharge or transfer to a long-term-care facility. This designated person can keep family members informed about what to expect during the hospital stay, during rehabilitation, and at home when the patient is discharged.
Not all caregivers who come in with patients are new to the caregiver role. Both new and experienced caregivers should be offered information regarding support programs for patients with stroke. As frontline nurses, we should make sure we have tools available to help us support and educate our patients and their families.
—Vicki Gulczewski, BSN, RN, CCRN
San Antonio, Tex.
—Casey Lemons, BSN, RN
College Station, Tex.
* Individual subscribers can access articles free online at http://www.nursing2014.com.