Nursing leaders at Philly conference urge training for family caregivers of elders

    Nurses who care for older people and their families are meeting in Philadelphia this week.

    Susan Reinhard, senior vice president at the AARP Public Policy Institute, is speaking at the annual Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders Conference, which begins Wednesday.

    Reinhard wants more nurses to share their expertise with family caregivers.

    AARP, an advocacy group for older Americans, surveyed family caregivers last year. The spouses and adult children of patients said they mainly learn their caregiving skills on their own — with little help from doctors, nurses or pharmacists.

    “They are expected, I guess, to look on the Internet. And that includes even wound care, colostomy care, things that you would be shocked to learn that family caregivers are expected to do with virtually no training in how to do it,” Reinhard said. “Then they take on other aspects of the job that I say would make nursing students tremble.

    Many nurses already spend time teaching family members better ways to manage at home, Reinhard said, but not every nurse has the time to “explain as she goes.”

    “Some of them feel: ‘Maybe somebody else should be doing this. I’m too busy. There’s too much going on.’ And I completely endorse that,” Reinhard said. “I’m not saying this is completely on the backs of nurses.”

    Reinhard says the nurse leaders at the Philadelphia conference are the exact staffers who have the first-hand experience — and sway — to lobby hospitals and other workplaces to set up more formal training for family caregivers.

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