Caregiver Support Translates to Saved $$

Caregiver stress can have debilitating consequences on senior caregivers. Reports show that family caregivers tend to experience anxiety, loss of sleep, and become ill more frequently than their non-caregiving counterparts. An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease in 2014. Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease require increasing assistance with basic activities of daily living (ADLs) such as eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. These individuals eventually need around-the-clock care. Because of that, their family caregivers find themselves especially overwhelmed. When caregivers feel they can no longer cope, patients are more likely to be placed in institutional settings such as nursing homes.

Costs of Nursing Home Placement
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2014 the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer's will total an estimated $214 billion, including $150 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Alzheimer's will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today's dollars) in 2050.

Medicare covers short-term skilled care up to 100 days the first 20 days are covered at 100% and from day 21 to day 100 the patient (or their family) has a daily co-pay. Medicaid is a state/federal program that does pay the cost of nursing home care for eligible individuals, however the patient must meet income and resource requirements. 

Families’ and patients’ total out of pocket costs for nursing home care in 2014 is estimated at $36 billion.

Image Source: Alzheimer’s Association

If we can delay the nursing home placement of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, can substantial money be saved? If Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are aging in place longer, doesn’t that mean more stress (and its inherent problems) for family caregivers?

States are seeking to provide real and meaningful support for patients and their caregivers. Many states are looking to increase their funding for community-based programs to support individuals and families facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, and in doing so, significantly reduce their state’s Medicaid costs. Recently, Minnesota determined it could save almost $1 billion in Medicaid over the next decade if the state adopted a new dementia caregiver support model, according to a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs. That support model was introduced by a program called New York University Caregiver Intervention (NYUCI).

New York University Caregiver Intervention (NYUCI) is a counseling and support intervention for spouse caregivers that is intended to improve the well-being of caregivers and delay the nursing home placement of patients with Alzheimer's disease. The program also aims to help spouse caregivers mobilize their social support network and help them better adapt to their caregiving role.

The program consists of four components:

  • Two individual counseling sessions of 1 to 3 hours tailored to each caregiver's specific situation,
  • Four family counseling sessions with the primary caregiver and family members selected by that caregiver,
  • Encouragement to participate in weekly, locally available support groups after participation in the intervention, and
  • Ad hoc counseling, counseling provided by telephone to caregivers and families whenever needed to help them deal with crises and the changing nature of their relative's symptoms.The program is delivered by counselors with advanced degrees in social work or allied professions.

In addition, many states are seeking increased funding for the Alzheimer’s Disease Community Assistance Program (AlzCAP), which provides educational initiatives and caregiver respite programs. Paired with funded public awareness campaigns, the hope is that by addressing and getting in front of the challenges of the family caregiver, the length of time before placing a care recipient into a nursing home setting can be extended, saving everyone a lot of money.

What would help you, as a caregiver, reduce your stress and help care for a family member longer? If you or someone you know is overwhelmed with the task of senior caregiving, Caregiverlist® suggests you consider the possibility of hiring respite care from a quality senior home care agency.

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