Skip to main content

New Article by Penn Nursing Professor Examines Moral Obligation of Clinicians to Address the Needs of Family Caregivers of Persons with Dementia

More than 15 million family members and other unpaid caregivers provide care to persons living with dementia in the United States. Yet the current healthcare environment and reimbursement models emphasize obligations toward individual patients, preventing clinicians from reaching out to these caregivers to assess their needs and provide care.

In ‘Who Should Assess the Needs of and Care for a Dementia Patient’s Caregiver?’ recently published by the AMA Journal of Ethics online, Nancy A. Hodgson, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Anthony Buividas Endowed Term Chair of Gerontology and Associate Professor in the Department Biobehavioral Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), examines the ethical obligation of clinicians to reach out to family caregivers of persons with dementia to ask them to share their challenges and concerns and then to provide resources for help.

“In dementia care, attention to family caregivers should be mandatory as their health and well-being are a critical part of the context of providing care to a patient with dementia,” said Hodgson. “We have a moral obligation to assure the health and well-being of family members who are intimately involved in caring for a patient with dementia.”

Hodgson co-authored the article with Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and School of Medicine and Director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging. The article proposes strategies to support caregivers, encourages clinicians to advocate for family caregivers and to be actively engaged in national discussions to affect policy change.

Hodgson is the co-founder of the Palliative Care program at the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center. Her research focuses on incorporating evidence-based findings into geriatric nursing practice to advance palliative dementia care. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and of the Gerontological Society of America.