The Challenges of Teaching Families of Home Care Patients

Family home care patients

What are the challenges in teaching Family members for their home care patients? — The 2001 Institute of Medicine (IOM) publication, Crossing the Quality Chasm[1]  was a landmark document that promoted the concept of Patient and Family-Centered Care (PFCC). 

The mainstream adoption of PFCC over the years has created a more holistic approach to healthcare by identifying the roles of family and other household members as being vital to the patient’s overall health and wellbeing.  Data from various studies have demonstrated that this shift has been beneficial to patients by improving overall outcomes, communication between patients and providers as well as increasing overall patients satisfaction.

The Role of Family for Home Care Patients in Modern Healthcare

Families and other household members, regardless of their relationship to the patient play a significant role in the overall goal of providing a more holistic approach to healthcare.  Family members are usually the first responders during emergencies, provide critical information, and function as advocates for the patient, especially when patients are non-responsive. At home, they are also responsible for providing basic patient home care which includes emotional and psychological support.

The family plays the role of the nurse extender in the patient’s continuum of care and that role has grown to include more advanced care than was required a few decades ago. With an increasingly aged population and more chronic illnesses, we now have 43.5 million caregivers providing unpaid care to both adults and children across the country.

Family members are having to carry out procedures such as injections, intravenous feeding, and dressing changes for wounds and surgical incisions. It can involve a steep learning curve to gain the necessary competence to take on such important tasks. 

Unfortunately, there is often little information provided by healthcare providers to help these families take care of their loved ones. Many learn on the fly through trial and error or from online sources which can be misleading or downright erroneous. That is why it is so important for professional caregivers to educate family members to ensure that they are prepared to give care properly, safely, and confidently once patients are discharged home from alternative care facilities. 

The Challenging Role of Preparing Families for Home Care Patients as Primary Caregivers

The role of nurse as teacher has always been an important one.  Teaching both the patient and family members the basics of care to ready them for discharge home or while they are in the home creates many challenges and rewards.  While physicians diagnose and provide treatment regimens and educate patients about possible risks and treatment alternatives throughout their care, it is the nurse that translates this information for the patients and their caregivers to prepare them for home-based care.  

One of the biggest problems you will face as a nurse teaching informal caregivers is often their lack of medical literacy. Medical journals and articles may not be of much help to them and may even be harmful if that information is misinterpreted. In the age of the internet, many feel qualified and informed after performing a “google search”.

Without accurate and reliable information, informal caregivers can constitute a risk to both their patients and themselves. While teaching patients and caregivers prior to discharge is vital to the patients’ overall well-being, the opportunity to do this in an effective manner is fraught with challenges. The most common barriers that prevent nurses from teaching the patients and their families include:

1. Limited Time

In acute and subacute facilities the nurse will often have competing priorities and find it difficult to find enough time to provide adequate teaching.  The rush to discharge patients home in a timely way to achieve throughput goals is all too real.

In addition, patients may not be ready to hear and learn the information when the nurse does have the time.  They are likely experiencing stress related to the impending discharge or may simply not be capable of remembering the instructions in a meaningful way due to their illness.   Regardless of why nurses find little time to teach the way they would love to do to give patients the knowledge and hands-on skills necessary for proper care when they get home.

2. Communication Breakdown

The right learning environment needs to be established before the patient and their family members can be comfortable enough to receive care instructions.  Stress and fear often contribute to communication barriers that nurses find hard to overcome. Sometimes, the barriers are language, sensory limitations (hearing and blindness), cultural and even illiteracy. In such situations, nurses must become creative with teaching methods that are individualized to meet each patient’s unique needs and that usually takes extra time and effort.

3. Assumptions

Sometimes nurses forget that even the simplest tasks such as bathing, transfer, continence care, and turning can prove to be daunting tasks for home caregivers. The addition of complex IV lines, injections, checking blood sugars, dressing, and drains can seem overwhelming. The learning process starts with the nurse in the acute and subacute care settings.

Home health professionals continue teaching while in the patient’s own environment.  They assess their patient’s needs and resources and provide teaching and support to the family as a unit.  Creativity rules the day as the challenges of each patient and environment tests the nurse’s ability to design plans of care that can meet the patient’s needs while taking all of this into consideration.

A Modern Approach to a Complex Problem

Modern technological developments have played a big part in the adoption of telehealth and online patient education solutions. There are reliable resources available for caregivers, such as the AARP website which allows them to learn the basics of home-based care such as:

  1. Management and administration of medication
  2. Managing special diets
  3. Operating specialized medical equipment
  4. Caring for dressings and open wounds
  5. Bathing and continence

Modern technology has not only provided better access to information about patient care, better products have also been created to make that care easier to provide.  Solutions including those addressing the specific challenges faced by home-based care givers are now available to the public.  One such solution is SealSkin Medical Wrap for the care and management of wounds, incisions, IV lines, and many other challenges you may need to creatively solve.

SealSkin Wrap and Better Home-Based Care

A break in the skin causes significant challenges to mobility and hygiene, as was the case with Christina Joseph who could not maintain proper hygiene when she was receiving IV treatments. 

Patients with PICC lines are especially vulnerable to complications such as infection, bleeding, and blockage which are a challenge for caregivers and a worry for the patients. It was just these challenges that led to the development of SealSkin Medical Wrap.

SealSkin Wrap is a medical-grade, self-adhesive, clear wrap that can be securely wrapped around wound dressings and intravenous lines to hold them in place. In addition, it provides waterproofing to these sites, making it possible for patients to move and bathe without worrying about dressings getting wet or lines getting accidentally pulled out.

Most importantly, SealSkin medical wrap gives caregivers and patients alike a stress-free experience because it is a versatile tool they can use to provide the good care they need to promote optimal healing.  Born out of the need to provide a seamless, comprehensive solution to one of the caregiver’s biggest challenges, SealSkin is one way you can embrace better home-based care for you and your patient’s caregivers. Visit our website to learn more about how SealSkin can transform home-based care for you.