To deliver minimally disruptive medicine, it is key to reduce the workload and enhance the capacity of the patient while pursuing patient goals.
Often, the workload is not faced by the patient alone – a caregiver shares the load. Sometimes, the caregiver carries all of it. Caregivers are seldom compensated for their work, they give up a lot, and their health and other needs are poorly addressed.
Some patients with multiple chronic conditions cannot recruit caregivers because they do not look disabled or terribly sick. Without caregivers, these patients cannot face the workload the healthcare system imposes on them.
Thus, caregivers (or their institutional substitutes) are a key component of a system of healthcare delivery for the 5% of patients with multiple conditions that accounts for the majority of healthcare costs.
These series of collated thoughts (a propos of the national caregiver month) regarding caregivers and their role and about some important efforts to support them are important for those who are working to design a healthcare that fits the lives of these patients. Think of the caregivers, honor their role and support them to ensure that their workload does not exceed their capacity.