So you agree that caregivers are vital and vulnerable and that knowing their needs and strengths is important to keep them on the job, but what do you DO about that? How do you introduce caregiver assessment into your practice setting?
Getting Started: Focus on Your Program
Carrie Smith is a Family Caregiver Support Program Specialist at a Michigan Area Agency on Aging. She’s interested in assessing the needs of the caregivers she works with and has heard that some assessment instruments have been developed by others. How should she get started?
Before she chooses—or creates—an instrument, she needs to think about her program and how she will use assessment in it. There is no single "right" way to approach caregiver assessment for all care settings and situations.
Some questions Carrie needs to consider are:
1. Does her program serve all types of caregivers, or just those for care recipients with a specific type of diagnosis (for example, Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia)?
2. What are her program’s goals or intended outcomes?
3. How will she use the assessment information? For clinical purposes and care planning only? For quality assurance? Outcomes analysis? Or policy development?
Once you have your program purpose in clear focus and know how you hope to use the information gathered by the caregiver assessment process, you are ready to tackle the details. It is important to keep in mind that assessment is not an end point. Rather, it should empower family caregivers to make in-formed decisions and link caregivers with community services. The “nuts & bolts” of caregiver assessment are contained in five questions. We’ll take you through them, one by one. The questions are:
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