New Program Helps Physicians Reach Out to Family Caregivers

Local physicians are becoming more aware of the challenges family caregivers face and the local services available to help them, thanks to a new program supported by the UNM College of Nursing Family Caregiver Project.


Making the Link: Connecting Caregivers with Services through Physicians provides information to offices of primary care physicians, internists, family practitioners and geriatricians about services for caregivers, including:

  • Individual counseling, support groups and training to help caregivers make decisions and solve problems related to their caregiving roles;
  • Respite care that enables caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their caregiving responsibilities, either in the home, at an adult day center or at an institution on an occasional or emergency basis;
  • Supplemental services such as home modification, assistive technology, emergency response systems, equipment and supplies and transportation.

The Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Area Agency on Aging and the The City of Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Department of Senior Affairs also are helping to coordinate Making the Link. In addition to distributing printed materials to area physicians' offices, the group also will present information on caregiving at physician meetings and in other relevant forums.


A recent survey indicates that in 23 percent of households nationwide, individuals are providing care for someone who is at least 50 years old and suffering from physical or mental limitations. However, caregivers often need help for themselves research has shown that caregiving often results in increased stress, depression, illness, and even premature mortality.


Moreover, experts on caregiving note that physicians do not routinely recognize the stress that caregivers are under or provide them information that might be of help. In fact, physicians may not even recognize people as caregivers right away. Caregivers often accompany an older relative to a doctor's appointment, or may see the doctor for their own health problems, which they may or may not associate with their caregiving responsibilities.


"Caregivers give of themselves tirelessly to make life better for their loved ones, often at their own peril," said Linda Petri, project manager in the UNM College of Nursing. "With the help of our local physicians we hope to make life better for the caregivers as well."


Area Agencies on Aging across the country are increasingly providing services to caregivers as a result of the National Family Caregiver Support Program, enacted by Congress in 2000 as part of the Older Americans Act. More than 150 area agencies on aging across the country are participating in the Making the Link program, focusing attention on the fact that many caregivers jeopardize their own health when they care for their loved ones and providing a way for physicians to refer caregivers to support and services in their community.

Contact: Lynn Melton, 272-3322

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