My goal in writing this blog is to inform health care professionals of the extent to which education is critical to support the families and caregivers of patients with skin and wound care conditions. As a wound care nurse and caregiver with over two decades of experience in both occupations, I can attest to the importance of education and support for caregivers. Unfortunately, I can count on one hand the number of times providers or nurses offered me education and support as a caregiver.
Many of us will eventually take on a caregiver role in one form or another. According to the 2020 update, the number of family caregivers in the United States increased by 9.5 million between 2015 and 2020. More than one in every five Americans is now a caregiver in their own home.1 Because of our aging population, there is an associated increase in demand for caregiving, and there should be an emphasis on education and support for this population.
Providing caregivers with the necessary training, knowledge, and support makes all the difference in patient outcomes. It is critical for caregivers to feel confident, informed, supported, and equipped in their position. We all want the appropriate training for our job roles, and so do caregivers. It is essential for overall outcomes, whether it is education about their loved one's chronic condition, information about community services, or helpful self-care recommendations. Caregivers experience grief, resentment, guilt, anger, anxiety, stress, and depression. It becomes difficult to care for their loved ones when they sometimes feel they can’t take care of themselves. Caregivers tend to take their loved ones to their checkups and appointments and not go themselves. Imagine the feeling a caregiver has when their loved one has a chronic wound. This indicates the need for additional education and support.
Encourage caregivers to take care of themselves first. It is normal for them to feel guilty for putting themselves first. Flight attendants’ instruction to put your oxygen mask on first or you won’t be able to take care of someone else is a truth that applies to caretakers. Around one in ten (11%) caregivers reports that caring for others has negatively affected their physical health. Subjective well-being and physical health are lower in caregivers than in noncaregivers.1
Caregivers should be provided the nuts and bolts of caregiving to perform their job efficiently. They don’t know what they don’t know. Demonstrating how to cleanse a wound, apply a dressing, or cleanse skin folds to prevent intertrigo can be invaluable education. I have listed below what caregivers will find most helpful in their journey of caregiving.
There are many national agencies, groups, and organizations available to caregivers seeking information, assistance, education, and support.2,3 There are also many establishments for caregiving in general and tailored resources for cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, hospice, and palliative care.
Learning the nuts and bolts of caregiving, including prevention, skin and wound care, and understanding what to expect, can help caregivers feel more in control and prepared. Additionally, family caregivers must develop strategies for managing stress and caring for themselves while caring for a loved one. Health care professionals can help bridge gaps in education and support.
Cheryl Carver’s experience includes more than two decades as a wound nurse, educator, and content writer. Cheryl’s mother died at only 47 years old due to complications of diabetes and pressure ulcers; Cheryl used her pain from the loss to fuel a passion for wound care. Cheryl has contributed over 200 published white papers, ebooks, blogs, and articles both freelance and with WoundSource since 2014. Additionally, Cheryl also serves as an active Board of Directors member of the American Professional Wound Care Association (APWCA) and is a designated Master (MAPWCA), member of the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care (AAWC), and on the Speakers Bureau, the International Alliance of Wound Care Scholarship Foundation (IAWCSF) as Vice President Board of Directors, a Fellow with the American College of Clinical Wound Care Specialists (FACCWS), and an Ohio Prison Fellowship Justice Ambassador.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, HMP Global, its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.