According to the Institute of Medicine, the proportion of Americans who are age 65 years and older is projected to increase from 12 percent in 2005 to 20 percent by 2030. This aging of America's patient population has focused greater attention on care and treatment of the elderly, as well as their family caregivers, who are reporting burnout in increasing numbers.
In fact, a recent study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the AAFP found that nearly three out of four Americans who provide care for a family member or friend who is disabled or elderly or who has physical or mental limitations said caregiving had at least some impact on their health. Nearly nine in 10 said they felt one or more stressors associated with caregiving.
More than 43 million Americans provide care for someone 50 or older, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance(www.caregiver.org), and 15.2 million Americans care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association(www.alz.org) (2-page PDF; About PDFs).
One of the biggest stressors on both the elderly and their caregivers is understanding and dealing with the issues and challenges of caring for the elderly. In response, the AAFP's award-winning consumer website, FamilyDoctor.org, has added new content(familydoctor.org) that is designed to help caregivers provide care for their loved ones while continuing to maintain health and balance themselves.
- As America's population ages, new survey results indicate that both the elderly and their caregivers are frustrated by issues and challenges associated with caring for the elderly.
- In response, the AAFP's award-winning consumer website, FamilyDoctor.org, has added content to its Seniors page to help elderly patients and their caregivers better understand and deal with these issues and challenges.
- This clearinghouse of information on elderly care addresses multiple issues, such as health and aging and meeting the challenges of providing care to the elderly.
"Family physicians are the place to start for information about a loved one's health, but millions of Americans turn to online sources to learn -- for example -- how to keep the home environment safe or how to make sure an elderly loved one is eating right," said AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., in a prepared statement.
"That's where FamilyDoctor.org comes in. It's a resource that complements the patient-centered medical home, where care is coordinated across all settings, from the doctor's office to hospitals to nursing homes and many other services that make up our health care system."
During an April 24 media teleconference on the release of the new FamilyDoctor.org content, Stream pointed out that caregivers typically use the Internet to look up information on health conditions and elder care. In fact, results of the AAFP survey indicate that
- nearly two-thirds of caregivers who manage the health of those they provide care for sought information from their physician or health care professional when they had questions about the health of those they care for, and most sought information from a primary care physician;
- more than half of respondents looked for information on the Internet;
- 56 percent said there was no single online resource for highly credible health information on caregiving; and
- 58 percent said they were frustrated by having to go to multiple resources when they were trying to find information on a specific health issue.
Much of the information caregivers find, particularly on the Internet, may not be good information, however. "FamilyDoctor.org provides a trusted, reliable source for this information," said Stream, noting that although the Internet is a powerful source of information, it can be used to spread inaccurate or misleading information.
The materials on FamilyDoctor.org provide consumers with credible information that is branded by the AAFP. And it can be used by family physicians as a starting point for conversations with their patients. "Caregivers should never feel they have to wrestle with questions on their own," said Stream. "Their family physician is their ally in taking care of their loved one."
The new materials on the FamilyDoctor.org website include videos on dementia, preventing falls and gadgets to help caregivers. In addition, the site has added written materials on topics from depression in older adults to planning the future after a diagnosis of dementia to helping older adults deal with life-changing events.
Each issue is covered via question-and-answer fact sheets that provide pertinent information under various headings. By presenting the information in this manner, family physicians can either print out and hand the information to their patients or simply refer them to FamilyDoctor.org.
Other topics covered include
- caregiver stress,
- the benefits and risks of buying medications online,
- caring for a relative who has dementia, and
- sexuality in older adults.
The site also provides a checklist to help evaluate a potential senior residence, such as a nursing home or an assisted living facility. It addresses issues associated with living arrangements, including the friendliness of the staff and other residents, the safety of facility as well as the amenities and medical care.
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