Bridging the gap: A mixed methods study investigating caregiver integration for people with geriatric syndrome
Meulenbroeks I., Schroeder L., Epp J.
Introduction: Transitions of care between acute hospital and community settings are points of vulnerability for people with geriatric syndrome. Routinely including informal caregivers into the transition processes may mitigate risk. Guidance for operational aspects of caregiver inclusion is currently lacking in healthcare policy and fails to address the barriers faced by caregivers and healthcare professionals. Methods: A questionnaire and a semi-structured interview were piloted with acute care physiotherapists who facilitate patient discharge into community settings. The questionnaire was analysed using summary statistics and interviews were thematically analysed by researchers, using NVivo 12 software. Results: Questionnaire responses indicated mixed satisfaction with current caregiver integration by the multidisciplinary team. Four themes were shaped in the interviews: inconsistent caregiver engagement, individuals working in a system, an outdated model of care, and invisible care gaps. Discussion: Feedback loops constructed from participant questionnaires and interview responses informed the identification of barriers and solutions. These are system wide and address automated integration, cultural shift, reimbursement models, and flexible structures to enhance informal caregiver participation. Future research is urgently required to translate, implement, and evaluate enhanced caregiver integration to ensure sustainable, person-centred healthcare delivery.