Why Involve a Care Partner in Diabetes Management?
Adults who have a Care Partner involved in their healthcare are better able to stick to their daily health regimen, communicate more effectively with healthcare professionals, and have better health (with fewer complications) in the long run. Importantly, most adults with chronic health conditions want their healthcare professionals to involve their Care Partners in their care.
Our research with adults with diabetes - who do not have significant physical or cognitive impairments - showed that Care Partners are actively involved in health tasks for the majority of these patients. Care Partners often help with these tasks:
In a study of Veterans with high-risk diabetes, we found:
Over half had a Care Partner who regularly helped them prepare for medical visits
Almost three-quarters discussed the medical visit with a Care Partner afterward; however, nearly 80% were not confident they remembered the content of the visit correctly
In surveys and interviews of Care Partners of adults with diabetes, many reported feeling limited by:
Not knowing what questions to ask the patient on a day-to-day basis about their diabetes
Lack of confidence in helping with more technical tasks like injecting insulin and using home glucometers
Lack of information about:
the patients’ health status (e.g., blood test results)
what healthcare professionals are recommending to the patient (e.g., changes in medication regimen, recommended tests)
Care Partners as Supporters
The CO-IMPACT Program intentionally uses the term ‘Care Partner’ rather than ‘caregiver’ to refer to the supporters of people with diabetes. Although similarities exist, Care Partners differ from caregivers in that they may not be directly or physically taking care of the patient. Instead, their role is to support the patient's diabetes management while respecting their autonomy.
The person with diabetes is in charge of his or her health and should be in the lead. For people capable of making their own health decisions, Care Partners play an important role in helping - but without taking over. A critical component of the CO-IMPACT Program is training Care Partners on how to be positive, and communicate in ways that support the person with diabetes' ownership of their health and healthcare.
Who makes a good Care Partner? In our work, we’ve found that Care Partners come in many forms. Here are some tips for helping your patients select a Care Partner:
- The ideal Care Partner is someone who talks with the patient regularly, and with whom the patient already feels comfortable sharing health information.
- A Care Partner can be any adult family member or friend the patient chooses. They do not need to be a blood relative.
- Care Partners can live with the patient, or close by, but they can also live at a distance. Care Partners can participate remotely through phones, tablets, and computers.
- Choose adults as Care Partners, not children or teens.
- Care Partners do not need to have medical training or experience as long as they are willing to learn more about the patient’s health needs.
The CO-IMPACT Program tools give Care Partners:
- Skills to promote and support patient-centered ('autonomy supportive') care and patient engagement in care.
- Guides for structuring pre, post, and between-visit discussions with patients.
- Information on how to handle diabetes ‘medical’ issues at home.
- Orientation to the patient’s healthcare team and the best way to reach them.
- Clear methods for relaying patient information and Care Partner questions to and from the patient’s healthcare team.