How Prospero Helps Prevent Caregiver Burnout
They are unsung heroes, providing love and support for the chronically ill without any regard for their own well-being. Whether shuttling someone to doctor’s appointments or helping with basic household needs, caregivers are devoted to a singular cause: making someone else’s life better.
The caregiver role comes with consequences, though. As common as it is to be a caregiver—in the United States, one in 10 people identify as a caregiver for a person over the age of 50—what is typically left unsaid is that the experience can be incredibly isolating and have a negative impact on caregivers’ mental and physical health.
One startling piece of evidence highlighting the risk of being a caregiver is that they are twice as likely to suffer from depression as non-caregivers. According to the Commonwealth Fund, caregivers are also nearly twice as likely to suffer from chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Considering that one-third of older adults are caregivers, and that they spend an average of 24 hours a week supporting their loved ones, this data isn’t surprising. Healthcare providers have to ask themselves an important question, though: who cares for caregivers?
Our team at Prospero strives to support the whole person and the whole family. In practice, this means we take on everyday responsibilities, like coordinating care among providers, so that those in our care and their loved ones have more time to enjoy the here and now. We also understand that the challenges faced by caregivers impact their relationships with the person in their care, with other members of the support network, and with themselves.
The issue of “caregiver burnout” is closely monitored by Prospero clinicians and can manifest in the following ways:
- A primary caregiver can become overwhelmed and begin to resent their responsibilities, which in turn makes the person under their care feel like a burden.
- Frustration and communication issues can build when one family member feels that the others aren’t pulling their weight in terms of caregiving duties.
- When a caregiver’s duties grow, they can start to lose touch with their other identities, such as spouse, parent, child, and friend.
For those who serve or have served as a caregiver, these examples are all-too familiar and are why Prospero places an emphasis on identifying and meeting caregivers’ needs.
“Our caregiver assessment is facilitated by the social worker on the care team. Witnessing the decline of a loved one brings up practical concerns, such as the cost of a home health aide, as well as emotional [concerns]. If a caregiver wants support from our social worker, we collaborate with them to figure out what the best intervention would be.”Lisa Vitucci, National Director of Social Work Training and Education at Prospero
One goal of the assessment is to ensure Prospero doesn’t add to the caregiver’s burden. Some caregivers would like an in-person visit from a social worker, while others prefer a phone call. In keeping with our person-centered care model, Prospero social workers always follow the caregiver’s lead.
In addition to the caregiver assessment, Lisa Vitucci was also instrumental in developing Prospero’s “Caregiver Compass,” a guidebook that includes tools for navigating the healthcare system, resources about self-care, and a journal where caregivers can document their loved one’s story, as well as their own.
“This comprehensive support benefits both caregivers and patients. If we can lessen caregiver burnout, we know our patient will continue to receive the best care available.”