A small study of paid home caregivers in Chicago showed 60% of participants made errors when sorting medications into pillboxes, according to researchers from Northwestern University.
The problem, the study argued, is that more than one-third of the caregivers had difficulty reading and understanding health-related information and directions. The study will be published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, which has been published online.
In the study, nearly 100 paid, non-family caregivers were recruited in the Chicago area. Health literacy levels and health-related responsibilities were then assessed.
“We found that nearly 86% of the caregivers perform health-related tasks,” researchers said. “Most of the caregivers are women, about 50 years old. Many are foreign born or have a limited education. The jobs typically pay just under $9 per hour, but nearly one-third of the caregivers earn less than minimum wage.”
Researchers found that despite pay, country of birth, or education level, 60% of the caregivers made errors when doling medication into a pillbox.
“Many of these caregivers are good people who don't want to disappoint and don't want to lose their jobs,” researchers said. “So they take on health-related responsibilities, such as giving out medications and accompanying clients to the doctor for appointments. Most physicians and family members do not realize that while the caregiver is nodding and saying ‘yes,’ she might not really understand what is being said.”
The researchers said they are developing tests for evaluating skills that consumers can issue to potential caregivers.