Did you know that you could be the one thing standing in between your loved one and an unnecessary trip to the hospital?

Family caregivers act as an important safeguard, possibly preventing their loved ones from being re-admitted to the hospital unnecessarily, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee discovered that a senior's risk for returning to the hospital was significantly slashed if they were cared for by an "informal caregiver"—typically a spouse or an adult child.

Outside of the physical care tasks (bathing, dressing, medication management, etc.) that these family members performed, study authors discovered that the psychological and social support they provided played an important role in keeping their aging loved ones healthy.

The investigation examined the records of over 1,200 Medicare beneficiaries being cared for in their homes.

The goal of the study was to determine how certain social environmental factors, including: whether or not a senior lived alone, or was being cared for by an informal caregiver, affected their chances of re-hospitalization (being re-admitted to the hospital within 60 days of being released).

Why are family caregivers so important when it comes to keeping their loved ones out of the hospital?

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Because they provide the emotional encouragement that their ailing family members so desperately need.

Seniors who received adequate amounts of social support from a family member were better able to take care of themselves and engage in healthy behaviors that allowed them to remain living in their homes. They were also more likely to seek out medical attention for themselves when health problems arose.

For those seniors who were unwilling (or unable) to seek medical assistance, family caregivers also often filled the vital role of advocate, recognizing and pursuing necessary medical care for their senior relatives.

According to study authors, their results indicate that, "Informal caregivers are part of the solution in preventing unnecessary hospitalizations and more attention needs to be given to how these caregivers are supported in their roles."