Caregivers Often Become Part of the Family as More Americans Need Long-Term Health Care

The number of people who need long-term health care continues to grow globally. In the U.S., there are 53 million unpaid family caregivers. The burden becomes too great, and professional caregivers become vital to the family.

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Caregivers Often Become Part of the Family as More Americans Need Long-Term Health Care
5 Min Read October 4th, 2022

An aging America means many millions of older people, or those with chronic health problems, require long-term health care. Medical advances do allow us longer lifespans. Unfortunately, declining health, frailty, mobility problems, and dementia lead to needing help with daily living activities or supervision. 

Since many families never planned for future long-term health care, the family caregiver is the default plan. The role of the family caregiver is incredibly demanding. From taking care of daily tasks to supervising someone with dementia, the job is physically and emotionally challenging.

Family caregivers are often said to be hidden patients themselves. Over time they have serious adverse physical and mental health consequences from their physically and emotionally demanding work as caregivers and their reduced attention to their own health and health care.

Untrained and Unprepared Family Caregivers Find Role Demanding

These family caregivers are usually not trained for the job, nor were they expected to change their lives to become a caregiver for a parent when the time came. Family caregivers quickly find that they need help. These caregivers either can't keep up balancing their jobs and families with caregiving or can't continue doing it on a full-time basis. Some adult children live out of town and must return home. In some cases, families are not that close or are nonexistent. Professional caregivers become the solution.

This is a massive problem and there are consequences family caregivers face. There are 53 million unpaid family caregivers providing help for loved ones nationwide. Many people think that they will never need long-term health care, yet the facts show that the need for care impacts many Americans, and that number is expected to grow in the coming years as the country ages. 

The chart below from the CDC shows the percentage of adults aged 45 and older who provided care for an older family member.

Caregiving is Time Consuming and Families Often Don’t Live Close

Often being a caregiver is all-encompassing. Caregiving frequently consumes time that could be spent with their spouse, children, and other family members or friends, as well as time that may be spent engaging in other hobbies, social activities, community service, regular exercise, or vacations.

Quinton Kocher is the franchise owner of Amada Senior Care in Greensboro, NC. Amada Senior Care is one of the nation's leading home health care agencies. He says it is common for adult children to live long distances from their aging parents. 

Quinton Kocher

Their career and family obligations make relocation difficult, and they cannot keep a close eye on their parent. This triggers families to begin the search for a suitable solution.

Caregiving Becomes “Personal”

Plus, many loved ones don't understand how 'personal' long-term health can be and how embarrassing it can be for the family caregiver and the care recipient. Helping with personal hygiene, toileting, and bathing becomes emotionally difficult for both parties. It is yet another reason family caregivers find it difficult maintaining the job.

Kocher says this gets at the heart of why the profession of caregiving exists

These incredible professional caregivers are gifted with compassion, empathy, and skill sets that allow them to become as close or even closer than family with the clients they serve. These caregivers provide care that even close family members are unable or unwilling to provide because it is too difficult or emotionally overwhelming to get so involved.

Family Caregivers May Not Be Best for Care Recipient

According to some research, family caregivers may not be the best way for a loved one to be cared for. According to a University of California, Berkeley study, care recipients with dementia may die sooner if their family caregivers are mentally stressed.

Robert Levenson

Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, says the study highlights the mutual influence that a caregiver may have on the care recipient. 

Our finding of the strong relationship between patient survival and caregiver mental health underscores the profound intertwining of the lives and well-being of caregivers and patients as they engage in one of life's most challenging and intimate relationships.

Professional caregivers can provide appropriate care and allow family members the time to be family. Yet, because these caregivers spend so much time with the care recipient, they often become "like family" to both the care recipient and the rest of the real family.

Professional Caregivers May Become Primary Person in Care Recipients’ Life

There are times, however, when the professional caregiver is one of the few people the care recipient has in their life. It might be because adult children live hundreds of miles away. In some situations, adult children are uninvolved with their older parent. There are circumstances when there are no living close relatives that exist. In these situations, the professional caregiver becomes the center of their life. The caregiver actually becomes a friend, family member, and caregiver. 

Amada's Kocher says that when there is almost no one else involved in the care of an individual other than the caregiver, it is vital to have a team approach that ensures that all the care recipient's medical, financial, legal, emotional, and social well-being are in balance. 

An in-home caregiver often spends more time with the client than anyone else in their life, so it's a big responsibility and an opportunity to be a powerful advocate for them.

Long-Term Health Care is Costly

Yet, quality caregivers cost money. Plus, how do you know the caregiver can be trusted? 

Lee Lindquist, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says that some people have a false sense of security when they hire a caregiver from an agency. 

Lee Lindquist

There are good agencies out there, but there are plenty of bad ones and consumers need to be aware that they may not be getting the safe, qualified caregiver they expect. It's dangerous for the elderly patient who may be cognitively impaired.

Quality home health agencies and caregivers will always be open to being questioned. Experts suggest interviewing agencies or caregivers and asking a lot of questions. LTC NEWS has several guides that can help you, including - Finding Quality In-Home Care.

Long-term care services are in great demand, be it for in-home care, adult day care, assisted living, memory care, and nursing home care. The cost of care services is rapidly increasing due to increasing demand, inflation, and higher labor costs. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator illustrates how expensive care is today and in the future.

Time to Prepare for Aging is Before You Get Older

Preparing before a person starts seeing a decline in health is vital to retirement planning. As families often find out too late, health insurance and Medicare will not pay for most long-term care services outside a limited number of days of skilled care services. When families discover that they must pay for long-term health care, they typically must step in, at least initially, until discovering they cannot handle being caregivers. 

Long-Term Care Insurance has become a big part of retirement planning. An LTC policy will provide the guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for the quality care services you want, at home or in a quality facility. The problem is Long-Term Care Insurance needs to be purchased before your health declines since it is medically underwritten.

Most people obtain coverage in their 50s. There are many options, and premiums vary dramatically, seek help from a specialist who can assist you in finding the proper coverage. 

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About the Author

Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

How can you plan for the costs and burdens of aging? The solution for many families is affordable Long-Term Care Insurance. An LTC policy will provide you with guarantees that give you and your family peace of mind. When you own a policy you have guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for your choice of quality care in any setting, including in-home care.

Consider LTC Insurance as 401(k) insurance, but it is much more than that. Long-Term Care Insurance shields your loved ones and finances against the expenses and hassles of aging and failing health so they can remain family and not become caregivers.

When to Obtain LTC Coverage

Long-Term Care Insurance is medically underwritten, and each company has its own underwriting criteria. Generally, you will have better health when you are younger. Most people obtain coverage in their 50s. 

An LTC Insurance specialist will work with all the top companies and understands underwriting, policy design, and claims - Work With a Specialist.

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There are a variety of tools and resources that LTC NEWS offers that can help you in your research:

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  • Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State - You can find the current and future cost of long-term health care services where you live.

  • Frequently Asked Questions - Get the answers to the most often asked questions about long-term health care planning and LTC Insurance.

  • Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim - Does a loved one - like your Mom or Dad - have a Long-Term Care Insurance policy and need to file a claim to get benefits? LTC NEWS will help. If they don't have a policy, but you need help in getting a plan of care and finding caregivers, LTC NEWS can also assist.

  • Reverse Mortgages - Learn about reverse mortgages and ask questions about how they work and if you or a loved one would benefit from one.

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