What will it cost to care for my loved one? It’s probably the most common burning question Northwest families ask when they consult in our office. This is also one of the more difficult questions to answer, like how much does a car cost? It depends on what type of car you need and want, how much you intend to use it, where you buy it and of course from whom. Much like car shopping, caregiving is costly to families not only financially, but emotionally, physically and mentally.
There is no question that we are living longer. One of the challenges of our longevity is that the later stages of our lives are expanding as well. Not only are we sustaining our lives far past retirement, but we are consuming more healthcare and long-term care services for longer periods of time. As experts in eldercare, one of the goals of Care Managers is to help families to be informed healthcare consumers and to create plans to cater to longer life spans. Their approach not only seeks to cut the costs of care, but to reduce the emotional, physical, and mental costs to family caregivers.
As we look at the financial costs of care, the medical bills, insurance premiums and the cost of long-term care all loom largely in the discussion. There is no question that the cost of care is increasing. Efforts to have a better educated and better paid professional workforce have also come with a higher price tag for families. However, among working family caregivers, the financial income concerns are also rising. It is reported that 70% of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their dual caregiver roles, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Additionally, 47% of working caregivers indicate an increase in caregiving expenses has caused them to use up ALL or MOST of their savings, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare, 2009. It is clear that efforts to cut the costs of care must have a multi-generational impact.
Some of the ways Care Managers cut financial costs are by:
- Saving family caregivers money from lost wages due to changed work hours to accommodate caregiving responsibilities such as doctor appointments
- Consulting with families regarding appropriate living arrangements and care needs to make a plan with longevity, reducing the costs of multiple moves to accommodate increased needs
- Guiding dialogue regarding advance directives and desired care to ensure clients’ voices are driving care choices so they are only receiving and paying for the care they desire
- Overseeing daily finances to reduce the risk of fraud, scams, or extortion
- Giving insight into estimating long-term care and healthcare needs and costs
- Guiding families through the healthcare maze to help them avoid the pitfalls - so they can be informed and cost-effective healthcare consumers
- Navigating Medicare, long-term care insurance, benefits and paying for care
- Planning and reducing the costs of a crisis
- Proactively making small changes in care before they become bigger problems later
Even if you have a healthy relationship with an aging loved one, the emotional and mental toll of caregiving can be great. A combination of not knowing what to do, difficult family dynamics, fatigue, grief, and being overwhelmed can exact a heavy price over short and long periods of time. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, 23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor.
Care Managers cut the emotional/mental costs of care by:
- Arranging reprieve to allow family to have breaks and practice self-care
- Mediating difficult family dynamics
- Conducting care conferences with caregivers and long-distance family to help explain the dynamics of the situation and the plan of care
- Communicating and acting as a liaison between multiple doctors and professionals to make sure the family doesn’t have to manage the care team and keep them on the same page
- Researching and advising on difficult family decisions to help families do what is right for them
- Clarify insurance and healthcare billing so that can retain important energy and time resources
“Adult children 50+ who work and provide care to a parent are more likely to have poorer health than those who do not provide care to their parents”, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute. This is in part, because caring for another person is just plain physically exhausting as well as financially and emotionally. Whether you are caring for an aging parent or a disabled child, the role of family caregiver can be a multi-year responsibility. This is marathon care.
Care Managers help family caregivers avoid burnout by shouldering responsibilities such as:
- Managing caregivers who can provide assistance with the daily needs such as bathing/dressing/ grocery shopping/ meal preparation/ transportation to appointments etc.
- Providing training and management for complex care such as catheter care, wound dressing, colostomy care, etc.
- Managing chronic illnesses through medication management, help with special diets, disease education, etc.
- Educating and advising on difficult behaviors such as wandering, lost communication, incontinence, yelling, or disorientation associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
- Arranging transitional care and managing discharges from the hospital to home
It is important to know that Care Managers are deeply invested in minimizing the costs of care that impact our families, our workplaces, our economy and our country. Find more information on how a Care Manager can help you online at www.SoundOptions.com or www.aginglifecare.org.
Published on May 3, 2016.