CMS has recently posted a new video titled, Caregiving: Trends and REACH into Indian Country. They state that 20% of us are already caregivers now or have been in the past year and caregiving costs in 2009 were $450 billion per year!
Caregivers provide such services from laundry, meals, housekeeping, and shopping to wound care, medication management, and IVs. Yes, you may need to administer medications via an IV.
So you are saying to yourself there is no way I am going to shower my parent or start an IV. OK, then who do you plan on doing those tasks? If you say Medicare or insurance will pay for someone to perform those tasks you are only partly correct. Qualified individuals may be admitted under the Medicare Part A benefit to either a skilled nursing facility or a home health agency after a hospitalization. Either way, once the patient’s goals have been met, they will be discharged.
So how do you prepare now to be a caregiver for a loved one?
Talk to your loved ones about long term care insurance. Since caregiving is so costly, you may want to either start saving now or think about investing in a LTC policy. US Department of Health and Human Services has published a list of average health care costs.
Other than costs, the best way you can prepare now is to be knowledgeable about loved one’s insurance policies, their advanced directives to include healthcare power of attorney or living will, and what community services are out there to assist.
If a loved one has been discharged from a hospital with a new diagnosis or a complex medical need, hopefully their doctor has referred them to a skilled home health agency who can assist you in the transition home and teach you valuable medical management. A good agency will have an MSW that can assist in coordinating other community services such as adult day care, low cost assisted living, meals on wheels, transportation to medical appointments, assistance for ADLs if you are unable to provide, etc…
So can you really prepare yourself to be a caregiver? Probably not. But knowing a little bit about the healthcare system, advanced directives, and community services can help. When you are faced with that new role, chances are you will need to make changes in your life. It most certainly won’t be a time in your life when you are sitting around thinking, “Gee, I don’t have anything to do. I really need something to fill in my extra time.” It most certainly will be a time when you are working full time, have kids at home, have plans for vacations, and have a certain routine in your life.