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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

The medicalization of caregiving


July 3, 2018, by Paul Cavanagh,

A recent article in Halifax’s The Chronicle Herald describes how family caregiving is becoming increasingly medicalized. “When does insisting that caregiving tasks expand to include medical procedures normally done by a professional become too much?” asks the article’s author, Angus Campbell, Executive Director of Caregivers Nova Scotia. 
“Some caregivers are also responsible for medical procedures such as injections, feeding tubes, ostomies (external pouches), dialysis, wound care and more,” he writes. “Some caregivers enjoy rising to the challenge that each new procedure may bring, but others may be afraid or simply don’t want to carry out such procedures.”
Like in Ontario, family caregivers in Nova Scotia are seldom asked by medical personnel if they would feel confident or if they are willing to provide specialized procedures. “It’s just expected of them,” he says.
“The system can be intimidating,” said family caregiver Mike Bachner in a 2017 interview with us. “You’re under stress and your primary concern is with your loved one. Somehow you have to quietly insist that you are part of the process and must be involved in the overall care plan, without poisoning your relationship with the provider.”
Bachner is part of an innovative project, “Connecting the Dots . . . Smoothing Transitions for Family Caregivers” that will help family caregivers facing challenges like his. The project, one of four Changing CARE initiatives across Ontario supported by the Change Foundation, brings together several health care partners and caregivers in the Huron Perth area. It’s focusing on addressing the needs of caregivers by defining their roles, and by working with caregivers and providers to co-design care and communication. 
Bachner said he had no hesitation getting involved. “The health system preserved the life of my wife: I feel a duty to give back.”
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To hear more about dealing with health service providers and the health care system, watch these videos (each less than 2 minutes).
"Not always do they look at the whole picture and what that would mean for the individual and/or family." - Eileen Cunningham, caregiver
"...discharge is probably the most frightening word that people hear." - Kristina McLaughlin, care coordinator
"...they didn’t take that as a definition of harm to self or others, which was infuriating to me…" - Cheryl, caregiver
"being prepared for a visit's important, thinking about what questions you want to ask, what are the issues" - Gord Schacter, family physician