Oct 11, 2020

Partnering with Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital to support to family caregivers

The problem

When hospital clinicians have consultations with their terminally ill patients, the patient is often accompanied by a family member or friend. In many cases, this family member or friend is also providing some kind of care for the patient – driving them to appointments, picking up groceries, helping with medication, doing cooking etc. These family and friends are in the role of family caregiver.

We know from research and our own work that family caregiving can bring purpose and connection, but can also bring challenge and stress, with caregivers that feel burdened being at higher risk of depression and burnout, which in turn impact their ability to provide care. 

Hospitals want to support the family caregivers they are in contact with, but funding this support is challenging with health-insurance being tied to treatment for the patient and not support for caregivers. In facilities like Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSGH), whose patients are primarily from underserved backgrounds with no private healthcare insurance, there are few funds to hire in external organizations to provide support to caregivers on an ongoing basis. 

To solve this problem Zen Caregiving Project (ZCP) and ZSFG received funding from the Stupski Foundation to create a sustainable Train-the-Trainer program in which hospital staff are trained to deliver support sessions to family caregivers.

The program

ZCP’s Mindful Caregiving Education (MCE) teaches mindfulness-based approaches and tools to build the emotional resilience of caregivers, reducing their stress and likelihood of burnout. MCE courses are traditionally taught by instructors with decades of mindfulness and meditation practice but we realised that time-poor hospital staff wouldn’t be able to attend extensive training. To overcome this time-barrier our team has created lesson plans, exercises and recorded videos explaining the key concepts within MCE. Hospital staff will then be trained by our experienced instructors in how to facilitate family caregiver groups using these ready-made materials. In this way we reduce staff training requirements from months to 11 hours while ensuring the quality of the teaching is maintained. 

After the 11-hour training, facilitators will lead courses for family caregivers, with each course consisting of six two-hour sessions. Family caregivers can drop in to one session or attend all six. All of our staff training, and all of the sessions will be run online via Zoom due to the particular health risks of COVID with a vulnerable population.

By training staff, and providing materials, we are enabling ZSFG to provide support to family caregivers in a low-cost and sustainable way. And we know that by supporting caregivers the hospital will also be supporting the patients they care for. 

Next steps

Staff training for ZSFG staff will begin in Jan 2021, with the first course for family caregivers scheduled for March 2021. We will be testing and learning as we go, getting feedback from staff and participants, and will continue to iterate and improve the design across the next year. 

We will apply for further funding in 2022 to expand the program to cater to Chinese-speaking and Spanish-speaking caregivers. We also hope to expand the program into more hospitals, reaching family caregivers who otherwise would go without support. 

If you are interested in the program, or running it at your hospital, please contact Naomi@zencaregiving.org

Share :