To more widely recognize and help those caring for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other chronic diseases, Merck KGaA (known in the U.S. and Canada as EMD Serono) is expanding its global Embracing Carers program to include Brazil and possibly China.
“Caregivers are a hidden pillar within the healthcare system,” Belén Garijo, chief executive officer of healthcare at Merck KGaA, said in a press release. “They are critical contributors to the health and wellbeing of patients, which very often affects the caregiver’s health as well as financial, personal and professional development.”
Together with leading advocacy organizations and stakeholders, Embracing Carers recently launched in Brazil. A Brazilian survey showed that, although unpaid, caregivers feel supported by family members and find their work rewarding, but the role impacts their own mental and physical health.
In China, program leaders have met with health, advocacy, and academic leaders to better understand how the initiative, together with national and international advisors, might increase support and recognition of the caregiver role in that country.
Another goal of Embracing Carers is to help develop an advocacy source to improve care.
With the program’s help, the International Alliance of Carer Organizations (IACO) will soon release a “Global State of Care” report assessing unpaid caregiver needs and best practices in countries where Embracing Carers is already set up: the U.S. the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, and Spain.
“Recognition and support of caregivers is a global priority. Since its launch, Embracing Carers has made positive steps to bring visibility, and advance actions, for caregivers,” said Nadine Henningsen, IACO board chair. “IACO, along with other strategic advisors, will continue to guide Embracing Carers and leverage advocacy resources, such as the Global State of Care report, to continue building on this momentum.”
In addition to the IACO, Embracing Carers is advised by the Caregiver Action Network and the National Alliance for Caregiving in the U.S., Carers Australia, Carers Canada, Carers UK, Carers Worldwide, Eurocarers, and Shanghai Roots & Shoots in China.
Embracing Carers was launched in 2017. To enhance its international reach, the global initiative is using Facebook to share caregiver stories and encourage greater support caregivers around the world.
Among those sharing their experiences, Jon Strum in the U.S., whose wife Jeanne was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS in 1997, found one of the biggest challenges of caring for a partner is the way disease affects the relationship.
“If you’re a family caregiver, it requires a whole lot of special relationship training because your relationship is going to change,” Strum said. “When a caregiver and their care partner are married, for instance, as we are, it’s not a typical spousal relationship. It has different kinds of pressures and different kinds of situations that you have to face, and so I think dealing with relationship issues is important.”