VHAN Social Work Team Bolsters Caregivers As They Support Loved Ones

For those serving as a caregiver for a loved one, over time, the emotional and physical stress can take a heavy toll. Caregiving can become overwhelming, especially when the patient is dealing with a complex web of medical challenges. Studies show that caregivers report higher levels of depression and mental health issues than non-caregivers. They also suffer from lower levels of physical health and increased rates of ailments such as acid reflux, headaches, body pains and more.

VHAN’s Care Management team often steps in to provide relief and assistance to overworked caregivers. Recently, this coordinated approach benefited an overwhelmed daughter caring for her 75-year-old mother with a history of vascular dementia and multiple strokes. The patient came to VUMC with increased blood sugars, along with weakness and confusion that had resulted in a fall at home.

After being treated for a recent stroke and a kidney infection, the patient was moved to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) because of ongoing agitation caused by a vascular neurocognitive brain disorder. Notified of the change by the attending VHAN RN Care Navigator, a VHAN Social Worker reached out to the patient’s daughter, who expressed concern that her mother was being over-sedated at the SNF with her newly prescribed medications. The sedation left her unable to take part in vital therapy sessions required for her transition home.

The VHAN Social Worker provided education and coaching to help the daughter effectively advocate for her mother while in the SNF, while also bringing the patient’s geriatric psychologist and primary care providers into the care team discussions. With her medications adjusted, the patient was able to receive necessary therapy and return home.

Unfortunately, complications continued. The patient developed a urinary tract infection that prevented her from taking her anti-depressant medication. As a result, she was up most of the night, even walking out a back door and perilously close to the family’s pool before her exhausted daughter found her.

The VHAN Social Worker sprang into action again, reviewing home safety plans with the daughter and reconnecting the patient to her geriatric psychologist via telehealth. They also discussed the symptoms and consequences of caregiver burnout, and the daughter was referred to support groups and caregiving resources.

The VHAN Care Management team not only help patients cope with complex conditions, but they also provide compassionate service and a listening ear to caregivers, reminding them not to neglect their own health while in pursuit of their loved one’s healing.

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