By Sue Donahue
As caregivers, some of you are considered part of the sandwich generation, meaning you’re raising your own children while also providing caregiving services to senior relatives. Perhaps you are a senior thinking about your own future. Do you know which care options are available to you or what kind of assistance you think you’ll need?
The good news is there are many choices out there, whether you’re a primary caregiver, family member or a senior looking for care. The bad news is that it is not always easy to figure out where to start searching for the high-quality information that will help you make the best decisions. In addition, information overload makes it easy to feel overwhelmed quickly.
Below, we’ll identify the various care entities available and the different types of care services they provide.
How Can You Find the “Right” Help?
There is no one easy answer for what kind of help will be right for you or your family member. The right answers will look different depending on various individual factors, such as how much help is needed to do daily tasks, are any of the tasks considered medical or non-medical and or your budget. Here are some thoughts to consider:
Part of finding effective solutions is clearly defining what problem you are looking to solve. For example, do you need someone to help you with household and lawn chores? Does your parent or loved one need assistance with bathing? Are there other tasks that are taking up too much of your time and emotional bandwidth such as driving the person to places or running errands? Identify your biggest challenge as a caregiver. When you are doing this, it is crucial that you are open and transparent, even when these conversations touch on very sensitive subject matters. It is also important to include family members, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Another step is brainstorming a wish list of potential solutions to your challenges. Think about the associated pros and cons for each one. At the same time, research the costs associated with each of these options, which can vary greatly depending on where you live and certainly narrow down your wish list, especially if you have a tight budget.
Do not be afraid to think outside of the box when exploring solutions. One of the reasons this process is so difficult is that no one way of care will work for everyone. Word-of-mouth is an important tool. Chat with friends who are also caregivers. Ask them about what has or has not worked for them or what kind of at-home help do they have, if any.
What Can Caregiving Entities Do?
There are many different caregiving entities and organizations to include in your search, and each has definite pluses and minuses. Let’s look at some of them in greater detail.
Frequently, other family members act as caregivers for their older relatives. This approach can work because it is very low cost, and the care delivered is delivered with great love and compassion. However, there are several buts associated with this. It can be challenging if the person suffers from a chronic illness or condition requiring close monitoring or needs complex medical interventions or treatments.
Caregiving can also be highly stressful for family members, especially if they are the only ones providing care, which is often the case. If you decide upon this mode of care, it’s important to set up an environment where it’s easy for family to communicate with each other, know and understand what’s going on in the loved one’s home environment and to set up a schedule to share the responsibilities. If someone else needs to step in to relieve a primary caregiver, they’ll know what to expect. Tools, such as video calling, sensors that collect information and send reports through an app can also provide a support network with accurate, minute-to-minute information that doesn’t require someone to physically be with the person in their home all the time.
This is an option that can be used to supplement family caregivers, giving them a break, typically a few hours, but sometimes longer, for self-care. It is important to realistically assess what you need. For example, if your mom is in bed, but just needs someone to sit with her while she naps so you are able to run your own errands, then respite care may be a great choice.
Depending on you or your family member’s needs, you can find skilled respite providers able to perform simple medical tasks either through agencies dedicated to this or via personal recommendations.
Home Health Nurses
Home health nurses are licensed, skilled professionals who are able to perform more complex medical treatments, ensuring your family member gets the care they need at home. Home health nurse are capable of basic tasks such as checking vital signs to administering antibiotics via IV and more. For families, however, this can be a pricey solution, even though many insurance companies cover some of the cost, it’s important to note the COVID 19 pandemic caused a shortage of available nurses in many areas of the country, complicating home health nurse availability and causing costs to go up even higher.
Home Health Caretakers
A Home Health Caretaker come into the home and offers a wide range of services depending on your loved one’s needs and their skill set. Some Home Health Caretakers may be Registered Nurses (RNs) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), often referred to as traveling nurses, assisting with one’s care plan. Commonly, these caretakers will be certified nursing assistants, but most home health aides don’t have specific qualifications or training. The agency you choose to work with will assign someone based on your need. As you may expect, as the provider's skill level and training increase, the cost associated with the additional level of care will likely go up as well.
At least 77% of seniors would prefer to age at home. Although insurance companies do not commonly fully cover this type of care, some companies will cover at least a portion of these costs based on one's diagnosis and care plan.
Trained occupational therapists can be a vital cog in your caregiving team. These professionals usually do not provide ongoing care. Instead, they often care for patients following a stroke or debilitating accident. They work closely with the family member in need to regain functional skills that may have been lost and can also give advice on a wide range of adaptations and modifications to make life easier. The good thing is that insurance companies often cover their services because they are medical professionals. However, the care provided is finite in nature. Insurance companies determine the number of visits that a patient qualifies for, and this care often terminates when the insurance company believes that the patient will no longer benefit from the service.
Hospice and Palliative Care
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between hospice and palliative care. When people hear hospice, they believe it is only for people with just days to live. Although this is often the case, that is not entirely true.
Hospice care is care provided to people diagnosed in the end stage of terminal illness, disease or condition which is unlikely to be cured. Generally, people qualify for hospice care when their medical providers determine that they have six months or less left to live. There is no “time limit” however, the patient is reevaluated for additional time in hospice in six months’ time. Sometimes, seniors cannot continue receiving hospice care because their health has improved too much for them to qualify again.
Palliative care is care geared toward people with chronic conditions Unlike hospice care, your loved ones can qualify for palliative care no matter what age, no matter what stage of their serious illness. It begins as soon as a diagnosis is made and may be provided alongside any treatment. Palliative Care can continue for years. Should their condition worsen over time, then a person may be transferred from palliative care to hospice care, which can be provided either in a person’s home or a dedicated hospice care setting.
The primary focus of care provided under either hospice or palliative care is to offer comfort and support to both patients and families. Some providers are very proactive in qualifying their patients for hospice care, and in other situations, patients and their families may need to give a nudge to their provider. If you think you or a family member would qualify, do not hesitate to ask.
Many insurance programs cover the costs of both hospice and palliative care. However, coverage does vary, so it’s wise to talk to both your provider and insurer to determine what services are covered in your family’s particular situation.
The Expected Costs of Caregiving
Finding qualified caregivers for yourself or your family member is not an inexpensive endeavor. Caregiving costs in a home setting vary dramatically depending on which of the above options you choose. It can range from almost free for a family member to offer this care to well upwards of $5000 per month for a live-in caretaker. In areas associated with a higher cost of living like New York City or San Francisco, costs can be higher.
Medical insurance companies may defray some of these costs, especially if the needs are medically documented to be part of a disease or condition. The rules can be confusing, so be sure to check with your insurance company. Social workers can be an invaluable help in navigating the constantly changing landscape and bureaucracy of determining coverage or affording care as well as ensuring the proper documentation often required. An increasing number of primary care providers focused on geriatric care have in-office social workers. If your loved one is currently in the hospital, it’s a great time to forge a relationship with a social worker and let them help you navigate the system.
The Key: Communication and Collaboration
No matter what caregiving option you ultimately select, you want to ensure your loved one is safe and healthy and that everyone is comfortable with decisions that are made in regards to care. Achieving that goal hinges on forming an effective partnership through communication and collaboration with the primary caregiver and anyone else that will be involved in the care of a loved one.
Technology Can Help
As a family member or senior, you want peace of mind and to feel confident your loved one's needs are being taken care of no matter who is helping them. The tools offered by Livindi can help keep communication amongst care team members seamless and inclusive. Seniors and family stay connected through video calls and photo and video sharing. Sensors allow everyone to monitor the health and wellbeing of the seniors in their home to determine additional needs and act quickly in an emergency.
If you’d like to learn more about how Livindi support can support your efforts as a caregiver, give us a call at (508) 416-6030. To learn about what products we offer, click the link to go to our shop page here: https://www.livindi.com/collections/all