Completely Backwards

Various surveys have found that 20 million to 50 million family members in the United States provide care that has traditionally been performed by nurses and social workers.

-- Jane E. Brody, NYT, "When Families Take Care of Their Own", 11/10/2008 (emphasis added)

That has it completely backwards.

In the past century or so, nurses and social workers are have been providing care that has, for thousands of years, been performed by family members. Modern capitalist economies in democratically run countries have produced a wildly different outcome than traditional societies. The extraordinary wealth required to have other people look after your family members was once had only by the elite. How strange to see the modern specialization and division of labor in healthcare called "traditional".

Family caregivers are, in effect, home-based representatives of the patient’s medical team. They provide medical services, make assessments of the patient’s well-being and determine when to call the doctor or bring the patient to the emergency room. Yet they often lack 24-hour access to professional advice and clear instructions about when and whom to call for help.

The medical establishment-centered view of care seems to overestimate the relative value of the judgments of medical professionals. Yet, I think analysis should be done to assess the relative cost and quality of care provided by "home-based representatives" versus "professionals".

Still, something doesn't sit right with me about this. Aha! Wait a minute. All these people being cared for at home by family members have suddenly become "patients"! That's pretty slick, Ms. Brody!


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This page contains a single entry by Kevin published on November 12, 2008 8:06 AM.

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