By Jamie Davis
Hypothetical situation: You are the caregiver for your mother and your grandfather. You live in New Orleans, your mother lives in Shreveport and your grandfather lives in Lake Charles. Your mother calls you at 7 a.m. and complains of dizziness and nausea, perhaps caused by an adverse reaction between medications prescribed by her cardiologist and primary care physician. While you’re on hold with her physician and waiting for a call back from her cardiologist, your grandfather calls with concerns about chest pains he’s had throughout the night. Meanwhile, you have a sick two-year-old, an important meeting at work and no remaining vacation and sick days.
Welcome to the ‘Sandwich Generation.’
Formerly known as Generation X, the more than 66 million Americans who make up the Sandwich Generation are caring not only for themselves and their children, but also their parents and in some cases, their grandparents…and all while balancing careers and other obligations and responsibilities. And statistically, more than one-third of them are playing the role of caregiver from a distance, which makes the job even harder - particularly when it comes to managing health and health care for their loved ones. Imagine trying to keep an up-to-date journal of all the medications Mother must take and when she’s supposed to take them, or attempting to explain by phone to one doctor that Father has already had that medical test done and doesn’t need it again, or having to fax a request to one provider to send Grandma’s lab results to a new specialist…these are just a few of the day-to-day issues faced by the Sandwich Generation.
But advancements are being made that can help – specifically, electronic health records (EHRs), patient portals and health information exchanges (HIEs).
For the caregivers who make up the Sandwich Generation, these advancements may present solutions to many health care-related issues. EHRs are designed to be accessible to caregivers through patient portals and can be securely and confidentially shared among the appropriate health care providers through HIEs. These technologies may help to ensure that caregivers have access to the most up-to-date information about their loved ones’ health and provide their loved ones’ doctors with timely access to the information necessary to provide the best care possible.
Although those who’ve assumed caregiver roles would hardly call that responsibility a ‘burden,’ many would quietly admit that it can be stressful – after all, as human beings, they can only be in so many places at once and they can only stretch themselves and their schedules so far. But health IT advancements can help alleviate some of that stress through greater organization of, and more timely access to, their loved ones’ health information.
Caregivers can visit with their loved ones’ physicians to learn more about the availability of EHRs and other methods of improving care coordination through health IT. Additional information about EHRs can also be found clicking here. To learn more about Louisiana’s HIE, click here.