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Prerequisites for providing effective support to family caregivers within the primary care setting - results of a study series in Germany

BACKGROUND: General Practitioners are considered to be well placed to monitor home-care settings and to respond specifically to family caregivers. To do this, they must be sensitive to the needs and expectations of caregivers. In order to determine the current status of GP care in terms of the support given to family caregivers, a series of studies were conducted to gather the perspectives of both caregivers and GPs. The results are used to derive starting points as to which measures would be sensible and useful to strengthen support offered to family caregivers in the primary care setting. METHODS: Between 2020 and 2021, three sub-studies were conducted: a) an online survey of 612 family caregivers; b) qualitative interviews with 37 family caregivers; c) an online survey of 3556 GPs. RESULTS: Family caregivers see GPs as a highly skilled and trustworthy central point of contact; there are many different reasons for consulting them on the subject of care. In the perception of caregivers, particular weaknesses in GP support are the absence of signposting to advisory and assistance services and, in many cases, the failure to involve family caregivers in good time. At the same time, GPs do not always have sufficient attention to the physical and psychological needs of family caregivers. The doctors interviewed consider the GP practice to be well suited to being a primary point of contact for caregivers, but recognise that various challenges exist. These relate, among other things, to the timely organisation of appropriate respite services, targeted referral to support services or the early identification of informal caregivers. CONCLUSIONS: GP practices can play a central role in supporting family caregivers. Caregivers should be approached by the practice team at an early stage and consistently signposted to help and support services. In order to support care settings successfully, it is important to consider the triadic constellation of needs, wishes and stresses of both the caregiver and the care recipient. More training and greater involvement of practice staff in the support and identification of caregivers seems advisable. 

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BMC Family Practice
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