Family and Friends Provide Substantial Amounts of Care in Long-Term Care Facilities - Study

Informal caregivers are the backbone of long-term health care, but the job places stress and anxiety on family caregivers. We expect LTC facilities to have adequate staffing, but a study suggests facilities became dependent on informal caregivers as well.

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Family and Friends Provide Substantial Amounts of Care in Long-Term Care Facilities - Study
4 Min Read January 14th, 2022

Family and friends have been the backbone of long-term health care. Family caregivers, friends, neighbors, and others from the community (like churches) become caregivers even though they are usually not adequately trained or prepared for the role. 

Many families don't even think of long-term health care until a crisis occurs when a parent declines due to an illness, accident, or aging. It is at this time when they discover health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, will not pay for most long-term care services. Medicaid isn't an option for many people since it requires the care recipient to have little or no income and assets. 

If the care recipient has Long-Term Care Insurance, the problem is eased since there will be funding for quality care options - but typically, nobody thought of insurance in the years before the health decline.

Families Struggle to Find Care Plan

Now the family struggles to develop a care plan. The care plan can include professional care, but that is very expensive and drains income and assets quickly. The adult children then decide which one of them - or their spouses - becomes a caregiver. That person must then juggle their career, family, and other responsibilities with their new caregiver job.

Caregiving is physically and emotionally demanding. The burdens on loved ones are numerous. There are financial strains, fractures in family relationships, and the caregiver also finds they face their own health problems because of the pressure of being a caregiver. 

If there are financial resources available, assisted living or a nursing home is considered because some of the pressure would be reduced on the rest of the family with access to quality care for their loved one. 

LTC Facilities – Are They Providing Adequate Care with Available Staffing?

It is assumed that the care recipient's needs for care services are met by the paid staff at the assisted living facility, relieving the burden on family and friends. However, this might not be the case.

A new study in Health Affairs challenges this assumption. The study shows that family and friends continue to provide substantial amounts of care in these long-term care facilities. It amounts to an "invisible workforce" that provides more than an extra "shift" of care every week in nursing homes and two "shifts" in assisted living facilities, on average.

The study's authors, Norma B. Coe, Ph.D., and Rachel M. Werner, MD, Ph.D. from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, used data from two national surveys from 2015 and 2016. It showed that residents at long-term care facilities were receiving a large portion of their care with activities of daily living from informal caregivers.

The study authors say that it is unknown if this informal care was the preference of the family and the care recipient or due to lack of available services at the nursing home or assisted living facility.

Norma Coe Rachel Werner

Dr. Coe and Dr. Werner

" ... it raises concerns about the adequacy of staffing levels in nursing homes. It also raises questions about how needs are met among people who don't have informal caregivers. Are their needs going unmet, or do staff spend more time with these residents, creating an implicit cross-subsidization between residents with and without family helpers?"

Staff Shortages or Not Enough Staff in the First Place?

The study's findings could explain nursing homes' staffing shortages and burnout during the COVID-19 virus crisis despite no apparent drop in staff hours. Visitor bans were put in place early during the crisis preventing friends and family from visiting care recipients. 

"The bans essentially eliminated this invisible workforce, increasing the care demands on the staff, on top of the extra work of the COVID protocols and infections themselves," Coe and Werner said.

Quality care is still the primary concern families have when their loved one requires long-term health care in any setting. Whether in-home care services or care inside long-term care facilities, families expect - and deserve quality care.

Need for Quality Care Doesn’t Mean Ignoring Family Burden

The need for quality care should not mean we ignore the stress and anxiety family caregivers - and other informal caregivers face when providing care. The burdens caregivers face are real. While more people today are planning for the costs and burdens of aging, it is still a minority of all Americans. A lack of planning means a crisis on family and finances.

Long-Term Care Insurance would provide the resources to ensure quality care options. There is no question LTC Insurance reduces the stress and burdens otherwise placed on the family. Still, the study suggests some facilities are understaffed and unable to provide enough care.

Virus crisis or not, our loved ones deserve better. Yet, without some plan, like Long-Term Care Insurance, a crisis will happen in the decades ahead. Planning cannot occur at the time of the crisis. Long-Term Care Insurance is unavailable for those who already need care services. Most people purchase LTC Insurance in their 50s when premiums are much lower and reasonably good health still allows planning to be put in place.

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

Editor's Note

Ignoring long-term care and how your future need for care would impact those you love will place a tremendous burden on them and a financial burden on you. Many people think they will never need long-term care, yet many of us do, and families go into 'crisis mode' when dealing with their parent's lack of planning.

Long-Term Care Insurance has become a vital part of retirement planning to protect income and assets from the growing cost of long-term health care service and ease the stress and burdens placed on our families - usually our adult children.

The solution is awaiting you - but you must act before getting older, and your health and body start declining. Most people purchase Long-Term Care Insurance in their 50s. There are many affordable options to choose from that will safeguard assets and provide you with your choice of quality care options - giving your loved ones the time to be family instead of caregivers.

Planning Tools and Resources on LTC NEWS

You can find many tools and resources on LTC NEWS to assist you in your research for a planning solution or help your family find the appropriate care for a loved one at the time of crisis. 

To help you plan for the future costs and burdens of changing health and aging, LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:

Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.

Seek Professional Guidance

Insurance rates are regulated, so no insurance agent, agency, or financial advisor can give you special deals. However, premiums do vary over 100% between insurance companies for the same coverage.

Experts suggest using a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you navigate the many options available to you and your family.

A specialist who works with the top companies can match your age, health, family history, and other factors and find you the best coverage at the best value. A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.

Find Quality Caregivers and Long-Term Care Facilities

If your parent or loved one needs care now - or soon - you will need to find the appropriate care in the right setting depending on their needs.

Take a moment and read - 

Get Expert Help Filing an LTC Insurance Claim

LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with your Long-Term Care Insurance policy. 

You can also get support in finding quality caregivers and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy or not. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

Share Your Knowledge - Be A Guest Contributor for LTC NEWS

LTC NEWS is open to contributors to share their stories with the world. 

You can write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. You can write about many topics, including aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, retirement planning, and long-term care, to name a few.

Be sure to write for our core target audience of adults aged 40 and older. Our audience is worldwide; however, our primary target is the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other English-speaking nations. 

Improve your website or blog's SEO and gain exposure and traffic at the same time by being a contributor to LTC NEWS. 

You can even promote yourself, your business, and your website or blog. However, it must have editorial content exclusive for LTC NEWS and cannot be just an advertisement. It can include links to other sites, and you can share the article link once published on your website or social media.

Email your story idea or article: - LTC News Contributors | LTC News

Benefits of Reverse Mortgages 

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance.  

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

Shared Links

LTC NEWS offers a 'helpful links' page so readers looking for additional information can find them easily. You can get a dofollow link to your website on LTC NEWS in exchange for a dofollow link on your site.

Let's work together and help consumers who search for us on the web - Site Request | LTC News.

You can also affordably purchase a dofollow link to your website or blog on LTC NEWS. Just contact the advertising department.

Sharing News with LTC NEWS 

Include LTC NEWS in your press release distribution. If your group, organization, business, political committee, etc., have news to share, send it to LTC NEWS. Email -  

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