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Collaborating with Caregivers

Posted by Mandi Wilhelm, MA CCC-SLP on

In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month, I wanted to highlight a second collaboration vital to our daily practices: collaborating with caregivers. There is a high demand on families and caregivers, and if I’ve done my job to the best of my ability, I hope to equip them to carry on meeting the communication/swallowing needs of my patients upon discharge. There are a variety of barriers, of course, with time being the most pressing. Every minute of education is so invaluable. Consider the following information to support and improve your collaboration with caregivers:

  1. ASHA supports caregiver counseling and education as a part of sound practice procedures.
  • See ASHA’s practice portal on dementia, which specifically lists the SLP role and responsibility to include: a)Educating caregivers about possible communication difficulties and providing strategies to facilitate effective communication. b)providing counseling to persons with dementia and their families regarding communication-related issues and providing information about the nature of dementia and its course.
  • See ASHA’s practice portal on adult dysphagia, which specifically lists the SLP role and responsibility to include: providing education and counseling to individuals and caregivers.
  • The practice portal for adult dysphagia also lists the primary goals of dysphagia intervention to include: reducing patient and caregiver burden while maximizing the patient’s quality of life

2. Caregiver counseling and support is billable time when the patient is present and actively participating. Unless there is a surprise discharge, try to get caregivers involved in preparation for your patient returning home.

3. Research suggests patients recall only 20% of what they hear, and in many instances in which the number is lower for medical reasons, the caregiver is tending to both the patient and the new information. There’s not much data on caregiver information retention, but given all that responsibility, we should be writing some things down for them. Here are some resources about pt recall.

4. Caregivers, especially in dementia care, can play a vital role in developing a treatment plan that is meaningful to the patient. Don’t forget to ask their input.

5. When speaking with caregivers, be mindful of HIPPA, and protective of patient information. Discuss only to those designated as POA or with express permission from the patient.

6. Encourage caregivers to take care of themselves as well. Research indicates caregiver burnout is real, which is unhealthy for the caregiver and the patient. Lets be quick to praise caregivers and encourage them to give themselves grace and rest when needed. Often, family members are taking on these duties in addition to leading their own busy, stressful lives. Approaching this with thoughtfulness and care can ensure a more pleasant and supported transition. (Here’s a link to some startling information about the caregiver burden

I have such admiration for caregivers and those that dutifully take care of their spouses, parents, family members. I’m hopeful these tips and encouragements will continue to speak to your current practice with caregivers and provoke you to carve out more time for them. Let’s make collaboration a priority. I’m convinced that when we get this piece of patient care right, we provide the best service to our patients.