One lesson we learned from COVID-19 is it sometimes takes a crisis to help make your point. There are many examples of this. Here are three: 1. The growing problem of senior isolation. 2. The underrecognized direct care workforce. 3. The lack of appreciation for family caregivers.

Increasingly, it seems we are reaching an inflection point on the third issue. (Or, to put it more in layman’s terms, unpaid caregivers ain’t gonna take it anymore!)

Two stories this week underscored this point. First, a survey by Tomorrow Health brought into focus the extent to which family caregivers struggle with care transitions home involving their loved ones. Tomorrow Health CEO Vijay Kedar specifically pointed to this population as needing support.

Perhaps a more stunning revelation emerged from Dave Kerwar, CEO of Inbound Health, a hospital-at-home and skilled nursing-at-home company. In a McKnight’s Home Care Newsmakers podcast, Kerwar conceded that dealing with the problem of unpaid caregivers in the hospital-at-home model not only is an obstacle to the success of hospital-at-home, it could take down the model.  

“If we don’t address it, it could be the demise of these models,” he said in the podcast. “You can’t expect family members to do this forever. We need to solve this issue as an industry.”

As background, there has been a lot of talk, er, backlash, about the burden on family caregivers when patients use hospital-at-home. It’s not hard to understand why. While hospital-at-home offers a lot of benefits — who wants to go to the hospital, after all? — someone needs to tend to that person’s daily living needs, be it brushing their teeth, helping them go to the bathroom or just holding their hand. More often than not, it falls on, you guessed it, the family caregiver.

Kerwar noted that the 5% who opt not to do hospital-at-home are family members concerned about not being able to be around for their loved ones.

“That is one of the larger impediments,” he said.

As troubling as it is, it may be a good thing this is coming to the fore. After all, why waste a crisis, right?

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].