Inclusion: Including the Family Caregiver in Healthcare Planning

When you think of the ideas of diversity & inclusion, do you stop to really think what that means in the entire scope of your life and the spaces you occupy? If you are like many (including Xpress staff) and have attended recent DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) training maybe your eyes were opened to just what diversity and inclusion could mean for you.  For me, I was reminded of the need to include those voices that are often not heard and the need for equality and equity for marginalized groups in all spaces. I also started to think about those we serve and I really started to think about the family caregiver and asked myself, when healthcare teams create healthcare plans how do family caregivers get their needs met through the provisions in the plan? How is their input gathered and incorporated in a holistic way that improves outcomes for all?

While it is common to include the caregiver in overall planning, it may be necessary to step back and really understand the impact of healthcare planning for the caregiver and how including them early on in decision-making and giving them a platform to express their own needs can alleviate some of the day to day stressors  associated with caregiving or even enhance their day to day tasks for their benefit and the benefit of their loved ones.

It makes sense, right? Especially, since family caregivers often  have a unique perspective.  They have a firm knowledge of:

  • Their patient’s social and medical history
  • The patient’s idiosyncrencies; what makes them happy; what makes them unhappy
  • Ideas on how to make the patient comfortable
  • Likes & dislikes when it comes to food, temperatures and environment
  • Temperament, sleep patterns
  • Where the patient may or may not need the most help
  • How focused/unmotivated the patient is on independence.

When the caregiver is able to provide input he/she can help develop a plan that:

  • Enhances the quality of life for the patient
  • Enhances the relationship between the caregiver and patient
  • Reduces dissatisfaction with the role of caregiving.
  • Helps identify the areas where the caregiver may need additional education or resources that could better assist the patient and reduce the stress and emotional pain for caregivers.

Realizing inclusion of the family caregiver in the space of healthcare planning seems like a no-brainer, but too often family caregivers are left without a strong feeling of support that many times leads to anger and emotional distress. When we address the needs of a patient wholly, including addressing the needs of that person’s support system (which includes the family caregiver) we can realize healthy and happy outcomes for all.

Author: April Clarke (Staff Member at Xpress Transportation)

Women as Caregivers & How To Support

According to research conducted by the CDC, two out of three caregivers in the US (66%) are women. And, nearly all caregivers of older adults are women over the age of 50. This is due to a number of reasons:

  • Cultural norms: Women are already seen as caretakers in the home, are more likely to volunteer or be selected as caregivers for ailing family and friends. Folks who need a caregiver are more likely to want a woman as caregiver.
  • Workforce participation: Women are still unequal participants in the workforce. COVID19 has increased their presence at home even more which make them the likely candidates for unpaid that includes caregiving of children and older adults.
  • Emotional Sensibilities: Women are more likely to feel a call of duty as it relates to caring for a family member or friend. They will be more likely to step up to the plate to take on the responsibilities.

The reality is that the inequity in this space leads to a lot of negative consequences, especially as it relates to physical, emotional and financial stress on the caregiver.

For example, women caregivers:

  • Often have more chronic health conditions, and
  • Often exhibit signs of depressions

While it can simply be said that men need to be included more in the caregiving space as caregivers, the question is how do we support women caregivers and do it more often? Also, how can you, as a woman caregiver take care of yourself.

Support for Women Caregivers:

As we look at the issues women caregivers face, we can start to layout what supports are needed including:

  • Providing specific assistance and counseling for caregivers
  • Provision of and assistance with how to find respite care
  • Telehealth or telemedicine support
  • Support groups
  • Providing equity for the caregiver in the space of care planning for patients. Allow their feedback and actual input into the plan.

In addition, healthcare policies and workplace health programs should be looked at to provide the kind of support needed for the family caregiver including mental health support.

Supporting Yourself as a Women Caregiver:

The biggest things you can do for yourself as a caregiver are in three (4) main areas:

  • Advocate for yourself: Speak up in your family about the perceived burden of your duties as a caregiver and ask for the help you need from your loved ones. Also, include yourself in all healthcare planning. Insert yourself as a component of the care plan that needs to be addressed and cared for.
  • Seek Support: Reach out to family friends and support groups to get best practices and a forum for discussion for the everyday issues you may be facing.
  • Practice Self-Care
    • Utilize respite care and the help from loved ones to take a break.
    • Acknowledge your feelings and know they are normal. Seek therapy and, as previously mentioned, support groups to help manage those feelings.
    • Do things you enjoy whether in small increments of time or by simply getting away when you can.
    • Take care of your physical health. Find time to exercise and take care of your own doctor’s appointments.
    • Find relaxation techniques that work for you. Meditation is one way but you may find another method that helps you relieve stress.

For additional resources:

National Alliance for Caregiving

Family Caregiver Alliance


Women, Caregiving, and COVID-19 | CDC Women’s Health

A Brief History on American Heart Month & What You Can Do.

The History

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared February American Heart Month. The declaration was official with Proclamation 3566, signed Dec. 30, 1963, according to the American Heart Association. Since that time (when half of U.S. adult deaths were due to cardiovascular disease), advocates have launched efforts to educate the public on how heart disease can be prevented and identified.

This year American Heart Month celebrates its 56th year.

On the first Friday of February millions across the country participate in Wear Red Day. This year, on February 4th, people across the U.S. will wear the color red to promote heart disease prevention within their communities and raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease.

What You Can Do

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in American with 650,000 deaths each year. Self-care is a key way you can prevent developing heart disease. In addition to proper nutrition, rest and exercise, seeing your doctor and attending your follow-up appointments is essential to taking care of your heart. Studies show that disease such as diabetes can make you more susceptible to heart disease and high blood pressure can lead to stroke, both of which potentially impact mobility. So ensuring a healthy heart can prevent certain mobility challenges or help preserve your mobility.

A Checklist

Keeping your heart healthy means paying attention to your daily activities and paying attention to your body. Use the following checklist to maintain your heart health.

  • Get exercise
  • Eat nutritious foods
  • Take your prescription medications as directed
  • Get the proper amount of sleep
  • Go to your doctor’s appointments. Use available resources to access the care you need.
  • Get your blood pressure checked
  • Ensure you following your care protocols if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Don’t forget your mental and emotional health.


Make Heart Health Part of Your Self-Care Routine (a message form the National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute)

Parkinson’s disease patient, Arthritis hand and knee pain or mental health care concept with geriatric doctor consulting examining elderly senior aged adult in medical exam clinic or hospital

Devoting a little time every day to care for yourself can go a long way toward protecting the health of your heart. Simple self-care, such as taking a moment to de-stress, giving yourself time to move more, preparing healthier meals, and not cheating on sleep can all benefit your heart. 

And that’s a good thing, because heart disease is largely preventable and focusing on improving your heart health has never been more important. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States, and many Americans remain at risk of getting it, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“Studies show self-care routines, such as taking a daily walk and keeping doctor’s appointments, help us keep our blood pressure in the healthy range and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke,” said David Goff, M.D., NHLBI’s director of cardiovascular sciences.  

It may be easier than you think to “put your heart” into your daily routine. Each Sunday, look at your week’s schedule and carve out 30 minutes daily for heart-healthy practices. Take an online yoga class, prepare a heart-healthy recipe, schedule your bedtime to get at least seven hours of sleep, or make a medication checklist. Then seek out support from others, even if it’s online or via a phone call, to help you stick to your goals.

Here are few self-care tips to try every day to make your heart a priority:

Self-Care Sunday

Find a moment of serenity every Sunday. Spend some quality time on yourself. 

Mindful Monday

Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. Being aware of your health status is a key to making positive change.

Tasty Tuesday

Choose how you want to approach eating healthier. Start small by pepping up your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Get adventurous and prepare a simple, new, heart-healthy recipe. Or go big by trying a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure. DASH is flexible and balanced, and it includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. 

Wellness Wednesday

Don’t waffle on your wellness. Move more, eat a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, make a plan to quit smoking or vaping, or learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could be having a heart attack if you have chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness. You might be having a stroke if you have numbness in the face, arm, or leg; confusion; trouble talking or seeing; dizziness; or a severe headache. 

Treat Yourself Thursday

Treats can be healthy. Try making a dessert with fresh fruit and yogurt. Then stretch your imagination beyond food. Host a family dance party, take a few minutes to sit still and meditate, go for a long walk, or watch a funny show. Laughter is healthy. Whatever you do, find a way to spend some quality time on yourself. 

Follow Friday

Follow inspiring people and pages on social media, or text a friend to help you stick to your self-care goals. Remember to take care of your mental health, too. Two of the main hurdles to self-care are depression and a lack of confidence, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. If your mental health gets between you and your fabulous self, take action to show your heart some love. Reach out to family and friends for support, or talk to a qualified mental health provider. 

Selfie Saturday

Inspire others to take care of their own hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones or share a selfie on your social media platforms. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight, and quit smoking. 

Learn more about heart health and heart-healthy activities in your community, and see what others are doing for their heart health, at or follow #OurHearts on social media.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for American Hearth MonthAutho