News From the End of LIfe: Helping caregivers to communicate with MDs

The National Family Caregiver’s Association (NFCA) in Kensington, MD, has launched an innovative program to help family caregivers communicate effectively with health care professionals. Family caregivers provide over 80% of all home care services, yet they receive no formal training or support in their roles. The program, called "Communicating Effectively With Healthcare Professionals," provides family caregivers with the skills and tools they need to help their loved ones get better care.

NFCA kicked off the project with an informative "train-the-trainer" conference on March 9-10 in Arlington, VA. The forty-seven pre-selected attendees were introduced to a curriculum including effective communication techniques that utilize role-playing to help caregivers practice what they are learning in real-life situations such as a doctor’s office or emergency room. Participants from as far away as Alaska included representatives from the American Red Cross, area agencies on aging, health systems, volunteer health agencies, and other health care and faith-based organizations. Newly trained leaders return to their communities to conduct workshops with family caregivers using the manual designed specifically for the trainers and integrated with the caregiver curriculum and support tools guide. The project was made possible by a grant from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation. The National Alliance for Caregiving provided assistance to NFCA in the development of the project.

"One of the greatest challenges family caregivers face is ensuring that a loved one is receiving the best medical care," says Suzanne Mintz, president and co-founder of NFCA. "This is a daunting task when working with a myriad of health care professionals, providers, insurers, and other medical organizations. This program helps family caregivers feel more confident and capable when serving as the voice for a chronically ill, aged or disabled loved one. It helps them be better advocates for their own needs as well."

NFCA is a grass-roots organization created to enable, educate, support, and advocate for the millions of Americans who care for chronically ill, aged, or disabled loved ones. For more information on the program, contact NFCA at (800) 896 3650 or at