(NC) Patients who need long-term home care couldn’t do it without the added support of family and friends who serve as unpaid caregivers.

While the rewards of caring for someone are great, there are also many challenges. The findings in the recently released report The Reality of Caring: Distress among the caregivers of home care patients make that clear.

The report, put out by Health Quality Ontario, the provincial advisor on health care quality, finds that these patients are affected to a growing degree by cognitive impairment, functional disability and frail health. Notably, the rate of distress of caregivers, at 33 per cent, has more than doubled from 2009/10, as has the number of caregivers who were not able to continue looking after someone.

The report underscores the critical need for support for caregivers. One such support is Telehomecare, an Ontario Telemedicine Network program that combines remote patient monitoring with health coaching by phone to help people with congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — and those caring for them — manage their condition in the comfort of their own homes.

The program provides patients with simple equipment connected to a computer tablet that securely sends off vital sign data for daily monitoring by a nurse, at no cost to the patient. Telehomecare saves time spent travelling to appointments, to the tune of eight to nine hours per month for both patients and their caregivers. That’s time saved and stress avoided.

But most importantly, Telehomecare serves as a lifeline for those caring for someone with a chronic condition. As one caregiver said: “It was a great relief and support to be able to recognize and control potential crisis/anxiety with this condition…we always received quality advice and speedy assistance.”

Reported another caregiver: “My father somewhat understands his condition. The primary care at home is delivered by myself or my mother. We already knew the signs and symptoms but Telehomecare enabled us to better monitor his vital signs.”

To learn more about Telehomecare, patients and family caregivers can visit www.ontariotelehomecare.ca or call 1-855-991-8191.