NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

By signing up to our newsletter, you agree to our terms.

Do Something

Do you know a caregiver who could use some help?

Check out the ACE (Assisting Caregiver Employees) program, which provides resources for caregivers

Connect WITH OUR SOCIAL ACTION TEAM



Video

Rather watch a video?

Listen to the CEO of Partners on the Path here.

Cheat Sheet

In a rush? Read the cliff notes

Jane Meier Hamilton, felt overwhelmed when she was left to take care of her injured husband, new born baby and work as a full time caregiver. Receiving no help, she became mentally and physically exhausted. Fed up, she created Partners on the Path, a program that shows family caregivers how to take care of themselves. Meier Hamilton hopes to give caregivers a way to cope with the stress that comes with caring for loved ones. The website provides tips, discussions and videos on how to deal with the constant stress of the job and prevent burnout.

Who cares for the caregiver? A local company supplies the answer.

Jane Meier Hamilton started her career as a nurse more than 40 years ago, and loved it. But about 30 years ago, something happened that led her to reevaluate her role as a caregiver: Her husband suffered a serious back injury, and was in agony, only a week after she gave birth to her son.

partners on the path, Jane Meier Hamilton, caregiver support,
Jane Meier Hamilton

That meant Meier Hamilton had to pull double duty as a caregiver—working as a nurse full time, then taking care of her husband while he recovered from his injury for an extended period. She was increasingly exhausted——and frustrated with the state of the American health care system. She felt as though she needed the kind of support that she was providing to both her husband and her patients. But where would that come from?

“It was the first time I experienced being a caretaker in my own household, and I realized that there is a difference between the professional role of caregiver and the family role of caregiver—because at the end of the day the caregiver goes home and hands his or her patients over to another professional who takes over,” Meier Hamilton says. “When you’re a family caregiver, that concern carries on night and day.”

Started in 2008, Partners on the Path was among the first cohort of Good Company, the nonprofit Philadelphia accelerator more known for helping boot up environmentally-conscious businesses. But Meier Hamilton was a disruptor in her own right, working to solve an issue that virtually nobody had tackled yet.

It was this frustration—and the opportunity it presented—that led Meier Hamilton to develop the programming for Partners on the Path, a company that advises family caregivers on how to take care of themselves, to avoid not only burnout, but also what Meier Hamilton calls “emotional fatigue.”

Started in 2008, Partners on the Path was among the first cohort of Good Company, the nonprofit Philadelphia accelerator more known for helping boot up environmentally-conscious businesses than mental wellness advisory groups. But Meier Hamilton was a disruptor in her own right, working to solve an issue that virtually nobody had tackled yet, and that even today, no other organization has as its central focus.

Nine years later, the company is the national caregiver consultant for CVS Pharmacy, and has worked with groups including the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice of Philadelphia and the National Stroke Association. It has been profitable since 2015, primarily because of its association with CVS, for which it is helping create a CVS-branded approach to caregiver support.

Simply put, Partners on the Path helps caregivers give care to themselves—particularly those family caregivers who don’t have another network to turn to for counseling. This isn’t an easy concept for some. One of the biggest challenges, Meier Hamilton says, is just getting caregivers to consider themselves in need of care. Some are even insulted: How dare you add me to the list of people I need to care for? But Meier Hamilton says that increasingly, individuals and organizations are opening up to the benefits of providing specific guidance on how to balance care of others, with care of self.

The for-profit company has three audiences: family caregivers, professional caregiver networks and employers. Family caregivers can access the services old-school—with a book and series of videos written by Meier Hamilton—or they can go to the company website for videos addressing issues like stress, anxiety and other common mental health concerns; access to counseling seminars; and to read simple but lifesaving guidelines for mentally and physically taking care of themselves—things like simplifying your life, facing reality, making healthy choices and asking help from others.

With the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), a family caregiver organization, Partners on the Path created an online portal to help caregivers with one-on-one or pre-taped support and advice. And together, they have launched a program for employers, to help them manage workers who have caretaking responsibilities at home.

Compassion fatigue, sometimes called caregiver fatigue, isn’t simply getting worn out from the admittedly-astonishing work some family caregivers do, nor is it normal burnout—the kind of thing that can be slowed down by a well-placed vacation or Xanax or a career change. It’s one of the most dangerous aspects of being a family caregiver: As the intensity of the care being provided increases—and it often does—so does the chance that the caregiver will become emotionally fatigued to the point where they offer less intensive, interested and careful care to the person they’re taking care of.

And it’s a growing problem. Over 18 million Americans work in healthcare, including nearly 3 million registered nurses. This number is expected to grow nearly 20 percent by 2024, accounting for almost a quarter of all new jobs created, more than in any other industry. Meanwhile, some 65 million Americans are family caregivers, for elderly parents, special needs children or disabled relatives. All of these people risk suffering compassion fatigue, as do first responders, like firefighters and police. Up to 40 percent  of intensive care workers suffer from compassion fatigue, as do up to 70 percent of mental health professionals.

Over 18 million Americans work in healthcare, including nearly 3 million registered nurses. This number is expected to grow nearly 20 percent by 2024. Meanwhile, some 65 million Americans are family caregivers, for elderly parents, special needs children or disabled relatives. All of these people risk suffering compassion fatigue.

All of this isn’t some new-fangled, hippy-dippy excuse for a decline in care quality. Even Mother Teresa mandated that her nuns and Calcutta take a year off every half-decade to avoid burnout affecting them too deeply. But the notion of “compassion fatigue” is relatively new—so new that the National Alliance for Caregiving, one of the leading caregiver advocacy groups in the U.S., doesn’t even track statistics on it. This may be why, though there are a handful of support organizations for caregivers, like Caregiver Action Network, Partners on the Path is the only one that focuses primarily on this issue.

“The model developed by Partners on the Path on how to get through compassion fatigue and build caregiver resilience is one of the best I have seen anywhere,” says CAN CEO John Schall.

Meier Hamilton can’t properly estimate how many thousands of people have interfaced with Partners on the Path online or via its books and videos; but she says that she’s presided over north of 3,000 seminars and keynote addresses across the country. Currently, the company is focused on expanding its joint program with CAN, called ACE, an online resource licensed by businesses to help them help their employees who are also caring for family members.

For Meier Hamilton, the business is personal. Like so many Americans, her experience with raising a newborn and taking care of an injured husband was far from her last tour of duty when it came to working as a family caretaker. Her mother developed Parkinson’s and dementia and her father was legally blind and had a pulmonary disease; her mother-in-law had a stroke and her father-in-law developed cancer. Meier Hamilton put in time caring for each of them.

“Compassion fatigue is being exposed to the traumatic and painful experiences of those for whom I’m caring, and then interjecting it, or taking it in, and feeling that I can’t get away from thinking about or being affected by that trauma,” says Meier Hamilton. “It changed me, ultimately.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the Caregiver Action Network. It is a family caregiver organization.

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

Recent Tweets
@THEPHILACITIZEN

@thephilacitizen @@thephilacitizen
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Join @ReentryUpdates in working to reduce recidivism at Hackathon's kick-off this FRI. #criminaljusticereform https://t.co/x9GCxZPz5d 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"GreenFutures has something that many other districts its size don’t: A formal plan with specific goals." #GreenPHL https://t.co/fnc03uDw9y 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Reduce clothing waste and attend a pop-up nothing swap this WED 11-3, FREE. Via @GreenPenn #rethinkyourfootprint https://t.co/4dxSouUG4l 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
To reduce recidivism in Philly by 25% over 5 yrs orgs like @ReentryUpdates host the 1st ever Hackathon.… https://t.co/8jdjG2qyjr 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Can a school district program make Philly a national leader in environmental education? #Sustainability #phillyhttps://t.co/8aSNQ7gQPj 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Catch Philly's own Stan Pokras at The Art Room for a special workshop on galvanizing our communities. FRI,7-8:30, $5 https://t.co/ONV4Pzut6X 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Will the next election cycle drastically change HC? Citizen writer @ellisonreport discusses ACA on @onwurd today.… https://t.co/HU7tXdgBpl 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Maher’s not just waging war on a 3 percent fee; he’s taking on the traditional home buying experience itself." https://t.co/2V4hbip7oI 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Discuss gentrification and more, this week. Our weekly Do Something guides are like the cheat codes to activism. https://t.co/IRBIxBKoYB 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
The CEO and co-founder of @Houwzer is challenging traditional home buying practices—while seeking to do good.… https://t.co/w0q6nCNZyg 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Last week, @Eagles defeated the @Panthers & All-Pro safety @MalcolmJenkins argued for cash bail reform. Read here. https://t.co/mQSUoDFrdR 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
The Wall of Action at our Civic Impact Birthday party last week was a huge success! Here's what you missed. https://t.co/5BALmBzcfm 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Only about 10% of congressional house seats are now considered competitive, meaning either party might win them." https://t.co/ZXtTE32C54 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Soda tax opponents suggested that those payments led the local NAACP to reverse opposition to the soda tax." https://t.co/zvwmQHyFYl 

LOAD MORE

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story