Many of those in a patient’s closest network risk illness and over exhaustion as a result of caring for their loved ones. Healthcare professionals must be able to care for a patient but also identify the needs of those closest to the patient. Support for relatives who serve as caregivers will provide them needed relief, which will benefit them and the patient.

In December 2011, the Executive Board of Health and Medical Care in Uppsala County, Sweden, launched Support for Relatives, a two year program in collaboration with Uppsala University Hospital, Enköping Hospital, and the primary care center in Uppsala County. The program improved support services for family members of those receiving care in the county. Today, the program continues to grow, extending its services to anyone the patient identifies as a caregiver.

In this interview, ACCESS Health’s Sofia Widén talks with Christianne Simson, the program manager and founder of Support for Relatives, about the role family members play in patient care. She discusses the background and history of the program and its challenges, successes, and future plans to improve support for and engagement of patients’ relatives and informal caregivers.

Results of the program show that relatives provide help that is essential to improve patients’ sustainable health. Relatives are also key players in the support of a patient during hospital discharge and are instrumental in avoiding unplanned readmissions. Support for Relatives teaches healthcare staff and municipalities how to include and support patients’ relatives.