Contact us logo top

Have any questions?

Healthfirst
100 Church Street
New York, NY 10007

Want to become a Healthfirst member? Have a question about our benefits?

Contact us at:

Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and Family Health Plus
1-866-463-6743

Medicare
1-877-237-1303
TDD/TTY English
1-888-542-3821
TDD/TTY Español
1-888-867-4132
Monday-Friday, 8:30 am to 6 pm

Already a Healthfirst member? For answers to your questions, contact us at:

Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and Family Health Plus
1-866-463-6743
Monday - Friday, 8 am to 6 pm

Medicare
1-888-260-1010
TDD/TTY English
1-888-542-3821
TDD/TTY Español
1-888-867-4132
Monday - Sunday, 8 am to 8 pm

Leaf Plans
1-888-250-2220
TDD/TTY English
1-888-542-3821
TDD/TTY Español
1-888-867-4132
Monday - Friday, 8 am to 8 pm

Healthfirst Small Group and Healthy NY Small Group
1-888-260-1010
TDD/TTY English
1-888-542-3821
TDD/TTY Español
1-888-867-4132
Monday - Friday, 8 am to 8 pm


Contact us footer image

Family Caregivers: Tools for Better Care

By Susan Bean, M.D., Vice President and Medical Director, Healthfirst

Today’s fragmented healthcare system has left some gaps in care that are now being filled by family caregivers. More and more, family caregivers are performing medical tasks for loved ones and becoming important partners in the care process.

 

“Family caregivers are the glue that holds everything together,” says Mary Jean McKeveny R.N., Director of Program Development, Dominican Sisters Family Health Service. “Caregivers are the silent care coordinators, but they’re not necessarily being engaged in the discharge planning process across all care settings. They are a key partner in really improving the quality of care being provided to the patient.”

 

Certified home healthcare agencies like the Dominican Sisters Family Health Service hire nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and home health aides to help patients and their family caregivers in the home once they leave the hospital.

 

The AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund, in a first of its kind national survey, recently reported that almost half (46 percent) of family caregivers perform nursing tasks for care recipients with long-term physical and mental conditions. These tasks include managing multiple medications, providing wound care, preparing food for special diets, using monitors, and operating specialized medical equipment. These tasks were on top of helping with daily activities like eating, bathing, and dressing. And most telling of all, most caregivers said that they received little or no training to perform these nursing tasks.

 

This report recommends that accrediting and standard-setting organizations should strengthen their oversight of how well institutions meet family caregiver needs and require steps to fill in their gaps in training.

 

Mary Jean McKeveny says that 40 to 80 percent of the medical information that patients receive is forgotten right away, and nearly half of the information that they remember is actually incorrect. This is why she says her organization uses the “teach-back” or “show me” method to provide education. This method lets the caregiver repeat in their own words what is said by the physician to make sure they know what to do to provide their family member with care. “Healthcare professionals often use jargon or terms that are unfamiliar to people,” Mary Jean adds, “and we need to speak the language that people can understand.”

 

Mary Jean suggests families seek out and research organizations online that provide necessary care support. Home health agencies like hers can connect families to a combination of medical services and community support services to provide a successful transition from the hospital to the home.  

 

“I would say to family caregivers—absolutely look into the organizations that support family caregivers at a community level like the United Hospital Fund and the Transitions In Care-Quality Improvement Learning Collaborative,” she says. “They have online support and have information in understandable ways to provide the next step in care. They have tools in all different languages that really help family caregivers.”