As the global population ages, family and friends caregivers (FFCs) are being called on to do more of the heavy lifting, both metaphorically and actually.
According to projections from such sources as the U.S. Census Bureau and the World Bank, the entire world’s population is aging. In some countries, the number of people who are 60 years or older is expected to double by 2050. In other countries, the number is expected to triple. These projections stand as a testament to longer lifespans and better care for older adults, but they also raise important questions. How are older individuals treated around the world, and what policies are in place to ensure that they receive the care and respect they deserve? There are four strategies:
Increasingly, medical care teams (MCTs) are interacting with FFCs. In the best situation, one designated doctor, like a primary care physician, leads the MCT. Likewise, it is best if a designated person leads and is the spokesperson for the FFC. Theoretically, if the interaction is optimized, then the result should be improved outcomes, lower costs, improved access and a better MCT and FFC experience. An extra benefit is that high functioning MCTs reduce burnout, and , I suspect, do the same for FFC leaders as well.
There are many moving parts in this pas de duex, and, consequently, many sources of errors like dropped handoffs, miscommunications and faulty information exchange leading to medical errors.
Emphasis recently has been on electronic medical record interoperability to reduce the friction in MCT information exchange. On the opposite side of the fence, gerontechnologies and platforms are being created to enable patients to share their personal health information and records with family, friends and care surrogates and partners.
However, sharing medical information with your BFFs (best friends forever) is but one barrier to FFC success. Others include:
1. Lack of privacy
2. Sleep deprivation
3. Social isolation
4. Not knowing what to expect and how to deal with it if and when it happens
5. Overwhelming physical care tasks, like heavy lifting
6. Miscommunications with, or lack of access to, MCTs
7. Inability to understand medical lingo in medical reports
8. Unawareness of social support infrastructure resources
9. Not knowing how to handle the legal, estate planning and financial impact of medical conditions
10. Failure to coordinate the FFCs and manage the team dynamics, particularly when there is dysfunction caused by inheritance or money issues. Like Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
11. The retirement wealth gap creates conflict
12. The hassle and expense of getting electronic medical record information
The opportunity to improve the FFC experience is big.
A caregiver—sometimes called an informal caregiver—is an unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks. Formal caregivers are paid care providers providing care in one's home or in a care setting (day care, residential facility, long-term care facility). For the purposes of the present fact sheet, displayed statistics generally refer to caregivers of adults.
Here are some facts and figures about the FFC community.
Improving the caregiver experience is an expanding frontier and a big business opportunity for gerontopreneurs that has the potential to not only improve the patient and doctor experience , but the MCT and FFC experience.
Global sick care demographics in not one thing after another. It's the same old thing all over and over and almost every developed country is facing it. Consequently, fewer patients are in nursing homes and more are aging at home with the help of their BFFs and sick care entrepreneurs.
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org. He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at www.bridgehealth.com and www.cliexa.com and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at www.globalminded.org, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.