Martin C. Barry
Can caregivers and professionals be partners in care?
That was the question members of the Agape Senior Wellness Centre came to hear about when retired UQAM professor of social work Nancy Guberman was the Notre Dame Blvd. centre’s guest speaker on Sept. 13.
Guberman has conducted extensive research on care giving, including several studies on the relationships between caregivers and health care professionals. She has also been active in caregiver rights groups.
Caregivers often say that they feel ignored, misunderstood or pressured by the various professionals they interact with on a daily basis. But at the same time, these same health professionals are expected to reach unrealistic quotas by the health system they work for and represent.
Stage set for conflict
Given the polarized expectations of these two groups, where the stage is set for conflict and unmet expectations, how can cooperative relations be developed for the benefit of all?
As Guberman suggested in her interesting and highly informative talk, the provincial health ministry’s current policy emphasizing at-home care places more pressure than ever on home caregivers, without necessarily taking into account their limited knowledge of medicine and nursing.
Caregivers bearing the cost
“A home is not a hospital, but they’re transferring all these things, and then the caregivers are stuck with all these questions and very little support, so that really they’re being used as resources by the system so that it costs less for the system,” she said.
Guberman said this was one of the first things she learned from caregivers about their relationships with professionals in the course of her research. However, she noted that not everyone had negative relationships. “Sometimes there was a positive and significant relationship between the caregiver and some of the professionals.”
Meeting right professional
However, what the caregivers also said was that meeting professionals like this is largely luck. “Is that the way the system works?” she asked. “That if you’re lucky you get a decent worker? And they used the word luck – I’m not inventing it. So if you’re lucky maybe you’ll get this really good situation where somebody understands and works well and is efficient.”
Guberman said her research team also asked caregivers what they expected or would like from professionals. “And what they told us was more listening – they should listen to us – more empathy – they should understand what caregivers go through, what their life is like,” she said.
What caregivers want
As well, according to Guberman, the caregivers said they wanted professionals to be able to provide better communications, more support and followup. “So they really want better relations and that the caregivers be involved and listened to and involved in all the decisions,” she said.
In addition to consulting caregivers, Guberman and her team also met with the professionals who had complaints of their own regarding the caregivers. “They said those caregivers, they don’t have much time do they? They’re stuck between their jobs and their kids or their grandkids and they’re sort of a sandwich generation.
Not as much trust
“So this lack of time is from their point of view a problem,” she continued. “They also find that caregivers are very demanding. They ask so many questions and they know so many things now and they don’t trust us.
“Before people trusted professionals. Professionals told you to do something, your doctor said something, we generally would go yeah okay. But now we want a second opinion, I read on the Internet this, my friend told me that. We are a lot more demanding.”
Caregivers and their rights
As well, according to Guberman, the current generation of caregivers is perceived by the professionals as people highly aware of their rights “and how to claim these rights,” she said. “Well I think we are into a generation of rights: everybody has rights. So want it or not they claim their rights.”
Located on the third floor at 3950 Notre Dame Blvd. just east of Curé Labelle Blvd. in Chomedey, the Senior Wellness Centre offers health conferences, cognitive activities (board and card games), organized bus trips, computer or tablet courses and meetings with other members of Laval’s English-speaking community. The Senior Wellness Centre can be reached by phone at (450) 934-1122.