Thousands of elderly individuals require in-home assistance from professional caregivers. Hiring a caregiver allows the elderly to stay comfortable in their own homes and maintain their independence. Although it sounds ideal, the situation is often far from perfect.
The Issues With Unskilled Caregivers
In a recent study titled “Inadequate Health Literacy Among Paid Caregivers of Seniors,” approximately 100 paid, non-family caregivers were recruited for the purpose of assessing their "health literacy" levels. Lee Lindquist, M.D., assistant professor of geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, reported some startling statistics:
- Nearly 86 percent of the caregivers perform health-related tasks. However, according to the study, more than one-third of caregivers displayed difficulty reading and understanding health-related information and directions.
- When sorting medications into pillboxes, 60 percent made errors. This statistic raised red flags for Lindquist, who said that many patients who don’t take certain medications as prescribed could end up in the hospital.
- According to the study, "many of the caregivers are foreign born or have a limited education. The jobs typically pay just under $9.00 per hour, but nearly one-third of the caregivers earn less than minimum wage.”
- Although Lindquist admitted these caregivers are typically good people, the fact that they don’t want to disappoint their employers or lose their jobs prompts them to take on health-related responsibilities they may not have the skills for. Lindquist stated, “Most physicians and family members do not realize that while the caregiver is nodding and saying ‘yes,’ she might not really understand what is being said.”
It isn’t difficult to see what problems this inadequate training could lead to. At this time, there are not standard tests family members or employment agencies can use to gauge a caregiver’s ability to understand and follow health-related directions.
Steps to Ensure Caregiver Skills
“Currently we are developing tests consumers can use to evaluate caregiver skills as well as studying the screening processes caregiver agencies use,” Lindquist said. To solve these problems, Lindquist recommends “going into the home, observing them doing the tasks, and asking more questions,” but for many families and agencies, this is not always possible. At the end of the day, caregivers must inherently operate fairly autonomously.
ClearCare offers a simple solution. For the first time, ClearCare’s web-based system provides real-time visibility to the point-of-care for the home care industry. It eliminates ambiguity by spelling out with precision –in English, Spanish, and other languages – the precise tasks that need to be performed and requiring status updates each day and for every task. The Lindquist study proves it’s not only peace of mind, but very real issues with quality of care we must acknowledge and solve to not only improve our agencies, but the lives of the millions of seniors that receive home care every year.