Proactive primary care of carers of people with cognitive impairment: A feasibility study
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Background: Over 250 000 Australians live with dementia, and it is estimated that this number will more than double by 2030. Many people with dementia or cognitive impairment are cared for at home by family carers who may themselves be frail older adults or who may suffer from chronic conditions. There is evidence that caring has adverse impacts on carers; however, many do not seek or delay seeking appropriate health care. Aim: To explore the feasibility of a protocol to identify the unmet healthcare needs of carers of people with cognitive impairment. Method: This feasibility study used a mixed methods approach. Data were collected through a set of three wellbeing questionnaires, and interviews with carers and one general practitioner. Carers were recruited through government-funded adult day care centres in Perth, Western Australia. General practitioners were nominated by the carers. The sample included 15 carers and one general practitioner. Results: Carer participants in this study experienced varying degrees of care burden. Insomnia, fatigue and pain were the most prominent symptoms. Their overall health status was lower than that of the general population, with physical functioning and bodily pain obtaining the lowest scores. Carers found the protocol useful and the questionnaires easy to complete; they reported specific outcomes resulting from the implementation of the protocol aimed at addressing their healthcare needs. Conclusion: The study results demonstrate the feasibility of adopting a protocol to identify and address carers’ unmet healthcare issues, and warrant further research. In the context of an ageing population, the growing number of carers of people with cognitive impairment and dementia need to receive adequate support to enable them to continue to provide care.
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