Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Happy National Caregiver’s Day! How do you support your patients who are also caregivers?


“Express empathy and support and ask open-ended questions.”-Dr. Eric Last

Passion in the Medical Profession | February 19, 2021 | <1 min read


Dr. Mariah Robertson, Johns Hopkins Medicine

As a former #caregiver for someone with #dementia I always worried I wasn’t doing enough. It’s a 36 hour day. People who said, “This is hard. You’re doing a good job,” and meant it and who sat with me with the difficult feelings associated with it, those were the ones who helped me most.

Dr. Colleen Christmas, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Give permission for them to feel whatever way they’re feeling about caregiving. Some would not want it any other way, even though stretched. Others didn’t choose the role and resent it. Huge range. I tell them what a great job they’re doing. Don’t think they hear that nearly enough.

What do you think?

Do you want to add to the conversation? Please share!

Dr. Eric Last

Express empathy and support and ask open-ended questions. Emphasize the importance of self care. Give them space/place/time to address their own concerns. And make sure they know they’re heard.

Dr. Ambereen Mehta, Johns Hopkins Medicine

I tell them it’s ok to to be a patient/friend/sister/son/spouse here and not a caregiver (and help them to identify someone/services they’ll need to do that), so that they can focus on that special relationship and themselves.

Dr. Elizabeth Gundersen, Florida Atlantic University

I ask them how they’re doing (as a caregiver) and validate whatever feelings they’re having. I also ask about their support system for themselves as caregivers.

Dr. Carl Streed Jr, Boston Medical Center

I ask the same thing I ask my friends and colleagues: When are you going to get some time for you? What can I do to help you get some time for you?

Dr. Maria Carney, New York

I always tell them they are doing a great job. Always. They’re usually doing the best they can. Every caregiver has different challenges and available resources.

Dr. Malvika Varma, University of Arizona

Always try to ask, “Are you a caregiver for someone?” for every new patient. Acknowledgement, empathy, and respect for their role contributes heavily to the trust in the patient-clinician relationship, and allow you to be an ally/support.

Look to involve other family members or other options to get the caregiver some time off. A rested and involved caregiver = healthier patient. Counsel the caregiver to invest in their own mental and physical health!

And if your patient has a caregiver, it’s always important to check in with them.

Dr. Megan Gerber

Above all encourage #selfcompassion. Emphasize that preserving their own health is critical to caring for the loved one. Normalize needing a break and explore respite opportunities whenever possible.