Struggling to follow doctor's orders

Feb 22, 2011

Paid caregivers make it possible for seniors to remain living in their homes. The problem, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study, is that more than one-third of caregivers had difficulty reading and understanding health-related information and directions. Sixty percent made errors when sorting medications into pillboxes.

The study will be published in the . It has been published online.

In a first-of-its-kind study, nearly 100 paid, non-family were recruited in the Chicago area and their levels and the health-related responsibilities were assessed, said Lee Lindquist, M.D., assistant professor of geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"We found that nearly 86 percent of the caregivers perform health-related tasks," said Lindquist, lead author of the study. "Most of the caregivers are women, about 50 years old. Many are foreign born or have a limited education. The jobs typically pay just under $9.00 per hour, but nearly one-third of the caregivers earn less than minimum wage."

Lindquist found that despite pay, country of birth or , 60 percent of all the caregivers made errors when doling medication into a pillbox. This is an alarming statistic, because patients who don't take certain medications as prescribed could end up in the hospital, Lindquist said.

"Many of these caregivers are good people who don't want to disappoint and don't want to lose their jobs," Lindquist said. "So they take on health-related responsibilities, such as giving out medications and accompanying clients to the doctor for appointments. Most physicians and family members do not realize that while the caregiver is nodding and saying 'yes', she might not really understand what is being said."

Right now there isn't a standard test family members or employment agencies can use to gauge a caregiver's ability to understand and follow health-related information, Lindquist said.

"Currently we are developing tests consumers can use to evaluate caregiver skills as well as studying the screening processes caregiver agencies use," Lindquist said. "But, if you really want to know if the caregiver is doing a good job and is taking care of the health needs of your senior, start by going into the home, observing them doing the tasks, and asking more questions."

Explore further: AMA examines economic impact of physicians

More information: The title of the study is "Inadequate Health Literacy Among Paid Caregivers of Seniors."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Caregivers of brain cancer patients play a key role

May 20, 2010

Despite grim prognoses and aggressive treatments, cancer patients suffering from malignant gliomas -- primary brain tumors -- often rate their quality of life more optimistically than their caregivers do, according to a new ...

Depressed caregivers hostile, not warm, to children

Mar 19, 2008

A new study in the journal Family Process reveals that caregivers with moderate to severe depressive symptoms showed greater hostility and less warmth. The study focused on caregivers of low-income children with persistent asthma ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

5 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

5 minutes ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

35 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.