WIHI: Family Caregiving, Caregivers, and Compassion

Date: October 5, 2011​


  • Arthur Kleinman, MD, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology, Professor of Medical Anthropology, Professor of Psychiatry, William Fung Director: Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University Asia Center
  • Jeremy Boal, MD, Chief Medical Officer, North Shore–LIJ Health System; Professor of Medicine, Hofstra North Shore–LIJ School of Medicine
  • Dana R. Lustbader MD, FCCM, FCCP, FAAHPM, Section Head, Palliative Medicine, North ShoreLong Island Jewish Medical Center; Program Director, Palliative Medicine Fellowship, North Shore–LIJ; founding Director, Palliative Care Unit, North Shore University Hospital; Assistant Medical Director, New York Organ Donor Network  
  • Andrea Kabcenell, RN, MPH, Vice President, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

When we talk about caring for loved ones with serious illness, we usually focus on the problems and challenges most of all. And that makes sense. There is nothing easy or simple about family caregiving, and when it’s required of spouses and grown children the burdens can be especially high. Still, when you hear Arthur Kleinman describe what it was like to take care of his wife before she died, the words that jump out are honor, respect, and love ― even in the midst of grief, fatigue, and loneliness.

Kleinman, a psychiatrist and medical anthropologist, discovered that caregiving could be transformative, especially the further away he got from the fast-paced, high-tech world of cure and intervention that characterize so much of health care today. But there doesn’t have to be such a divide ― not if health care providers can become more comfortable talking with patients and families about serious illness, more familiar with the benefits of palliative and end-of-life care, and more capable of appreciating the power of compassion.

This WIHI discusses the very human “call to action” that family caregiving poses for all of health care today. WIHI host Madge Kaplan talks with Arthur Kleinman, two physicians from North Shore-Long Island Jewish (NSLIJ) Health System ― Chief Medical Officer Jeremy Boal and Intensivist and Palliative Care program director Dana Lustbader ― and IHI Vice President Andrea Kabcenell. In partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, NSLIJ is on the cusp of bringing a great deal more expertise and knowledge to bear on how their 15 hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies can better respond to and support patients and families facing serious illness. This is a perfect moment and opportunity to engage with this team in shared learning.

As Arthur Kleinman told The New York Times: “There is a moral task of caregiving, and that involves just being there, being with that person and being committed. When there is nothing that can be done, we have to be able to say, ‘Look, I’m with you in this experience. Right through to the end of it.’ ”




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