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Measuring caregiver activation to identify coaching and support needs: Extending MYLOH to advanced chronic illness

Introduction: Family and friends of seriously ill patients are key partners in providing support and health care at home, managing relationships with clinicians, and navigating complex health care systems. Becoming a knowledgeable, confident, and effective caregiver is a developmental process we term 'caregiver activation' and could be facilitated by clinicians equipped with suitable tools. Managing Your Loved One’s Health (MYLOH) is a new tool to identify gaps in caregivers' knowledge, skills, and access to clinical and personal support. Created in partnership with caregivers and clinicians, MYLOH items reflect the essential dimensions of caregiving and can be used to tailor caregiver coaching to domains of greatest need. In this study, we extend MYLOH's initial focus on dementia care to caregivers of patients with other chronic life-limiting illnesses. Methods: MYLOH was completed by primary caregivers (n = 190) of people with a range of advanced chronic illnesses enrolled in the LifeCourse study, an innovative, whole-person approach to health management. Item relevance and responses were compared by group across MYLOH items and domains using z-tests for equality of proportions. Results: All MYLOH items were relevant to caregiving for all types of chronic illness; only 13% of caregivers answered “not my responsibility” to any question. MYLOH identified caregiving struggles across patient diagnosis groups with a few, disease-specific ‘hotspots’. Overall, 64% of caregivers scored low in activation on at least one healthcare management task, especially getting enough help with caregiving, managing everyday caregiving tasks, understanding/managing medications, and knowing how to respond to rapid changes in care recipients' health status. No difficulty was unique to a specific type of care recipient illness. Conclusions: MYLOH has potential as a tool for identifying caregiver coaching and support needs in managing a range of serious chronic illnesses. Caregiving difficulties endorsed by over 20% of caregivers should be core components of chronic illness management programs regardless of disease focus, with disease-specific tailoring as required. MYLOH may be useful in evaluating caregiver interventions and health systems’ performance in integrating caregivers into the care management of patients with complex life-limiting illness. 

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Public Library of Science
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Plos One
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