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Trends in Caregiving: What It Means for Caregivers and Care Recipients

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New trends are emerging in the world of caregiving. A movement towards home care, higher pay, and integration with technology are changing how we provide and receive long-term care. This article explores how these changes may affect you or your loved ones. 

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The need for long-term care is growing substantially, and many family members have been forced into unpaid caregiving roles. Family caregivers work tirelessly to support their loved ones, often while maintaining careers and raising families of their own. 

This commitment to caring for loved ones can be stressful for family caregivers and may even lead to burnout. However, recent trends in caregiving may offer a light at the end of the tunnel. 

In recent years, shifting public opinions and technological advancements have been transforming the future of caregiving as we know it. But what does this mean for care recipients and caregivers?

New programs and increased support for care recipients and caregivers are emerging. We'll explore these current trends in caregiving and what they mean for caregivers and care recipients in the U.S.

Navigating the Caregiver Shortage: What’s Being Done to Change It?

Over the past few years, we've seen a sharp increase in demand for care and a dwindling supply of caregivers. About 800,000 older adults are on care waiting lists because of caregiver shortages. 

So what's going on? Why are we seeing a caregiver shortage?

This trend is happening for a few reasons:

  • The aging population is growing. According to the U.S. Census, by 2030, one in five Americans will be at or above retirement age

  • Immigration policies are making it harder to stay in caregiving. About one in four caregivers were immigrant workers. Many of these immigrants have left or found it hard to stay due to immigration policies or anti-immigrant sentiments.  

  • Caregivers are fed up with low pay. The annual salary of a home health aide in 2022 was $30,930, or just $14.87/hr. In most cities, that is not enough to rent an apartment or afford the general cost of living. 

  • There's a stigma around caregiving. Caregiving has historically had a bad reputation as a dead-end job because of low pay, lack of career opportunities, and many other factors. This has been driving people away from the field, especially when other fields look more promising on the outside. 

We've already seen a sharp increase in the number of family caregivers stepping in to meet the demand. In fact, a study from 2020 claimed that 53 million Americans had provided unpaid care that year, up 9.5 million from their previous 2015 study. 

The prevalence of family caregivers has created a "sandwich generation." The sandwich generation includes individuals who find themselves caring for their children and parents at the same time, often while working full-time jobs.  

There is hope in sight; many employers and health care businesses have noticed the shortage and are working hard to fix it. Some of these employers are offering:

  1. Caregiver training: Employers are offering programs to help equip caregivers with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide high-quality care. 

  2. Career mobility opportunities: Employers are offering caregivers more avenues to advance their careers.

  3. Improved pay: Some employers are raising their starting wages, including competitive benefits and sign-on bonuses. 

  4. Recognition and support: The stigma around caregiving is changing as more people begin to recognize the crucial role of caregivers in our health care system. 

Expanding Support for Family Caregivers

Informal and family caregivers are also experiencing major shifts in their caregiving experiences. For years, family and informal caregivers have been the hidden pillars of our care system. 

Much of the reliance on family caregivers comes from a common misconception that Medicare or regular health insurance will cover long-term care. This is false; neither Medicare nor health insurance covers long-term care, such as nursing home stays, home health aides, or activities of daily living. 

Unless the care recipient has LTC Insurance or qualifies for Medicaid, they'll end up paying for long-term care out-of-pocket and relying on family caregivers to fill the gaps.

These family caregivers step in to help when no one else can, and their hardships have not gone unnoticed. Today, a growing number of programs, support groups, and compensation are available to support family caregivers.

Support Groups for Family Caregivers

Caregiving support groups help create a vital network for family caregivers to rely on in their times of need. Many groups offer a safe place to discuss caregiving struggles and offer access to caregiving assistance programs. 

There are several types of caregiver support groups. Some groups are condition-specific and offer advice on caring for individuals with specific problems such as Alzheimer's. Other groups focus on connecting caregivers with similar identities, such as young adults or women's groups.

Many of these programs also offer resources to make caregiving easier, get paid for caregiving, and recover from burnout. One program is the National Family Caregiver Support Program

The National Family Caregiver Support Program is available to those 18 or older caring for an adult 60 or older. It offers information about services, assistance, counseling, caregiver training, respite care, and supplemental services.

Compensation for Family Caregivers

It's estimated about one-third of family caregivers provide unpaid care for more than 20 hours per week. 80% of all family caregivers have covered routine expenses for care recipients out-of-pocket. 

Annually, the out-of-pocket cost of family caregiving is $7,200 but increases to $9,000/year for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia. 

However, the unpaid aspect of family caregiving may be changing. Some people may be eligible for compensation benefits from Medicaid. There are specific requirements that vary by state to get paid by Medicaid as a family caregiver

Caregiving can be very emotionally and physically demanding. Many care recipients recognize this and wish not to burden their families. Options like Medicaid's family caregiver compensation help both family caregivers and care recipients cope.

This program helps family caregivers financially recover from out-of-pocket expenses and may help care recipients feel better about relying on their families for care. 

From Nursing Homes to Home Care: Our Care Preferences Are Changing

Possibly, the most notable trend in caregiving has been the way we receive care. Despite the public perception that nursing homes are the most popular way to receive care, this couldn't be further from the truth.

Today, home care and community-based services are more available than ever before. This surge is accompanied by the increasing prevalence of care coordination and personalized care plans. 

The Rise of In-Home Care and Community-Based Services

For several decades, home care and assisted living have quietly dominated the landscape of long-term care, supporting a majority of individuals in need of long-term assistance. 

According to Long-Term Care Insurance claim data from the AALTCI in 2022, only 9% of adults receiving long-term care resided in nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. The remaining 91% received care in their homes, adult day care centers, assisted living facilities, or other alternative long-term care services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that "the number of people living in nursing homes has declined for the past 15 years," further supporting the trend towards alternative care options.

While the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly influenced the shift away from nursing homes, the preference for community-based care like home care and assisted living has steadily increased for years. In fact, APNORC suggests that 88% of Americans prefer in-home care to care in a nursing home. 

This trend is likely due to factors like:

  • Cost: Home care and assisted living are often more affordable than nursing homes.

  • Independence: Home and community-based options allow individuals to maintain more independence and control over their lives.

  • Personalization: Alternative care services and facilities can be tailored to meet individual needs and preferences.

Medicaid is the largest payer of long-term care in the U.S., spending over $179.28 billion in 2020. Over the past few decades, they've shifted long-term care funding to support the population's care preferences.

In 1995, Medicaid spent 18 cents per long-term care dollar on Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). As of 2021, they spent 57 cents per long-term care dollar on HCBS. 

While nursing homes still play a vital role in the long-term care landscape, their dominance is a misconception. For the vast majority, home care and assisted living have long been the preferred and often more accessible solution. 

Increased Care Coordination

Care coordination has become an integral role in caregiving and long-term care. Care coordination is the practice of collaborating with multiple healthcare providers or specialists to develop a personalized care plan. 

This approach allows any provider who works with the individual to meet their needs and preferences while delivering the right care at the right time.

Recently, providers have been utilizing AI and data-sharing platforms to create catered plans and transfer information seamlessly between providers. As technology advances, this integrated approach is expected to become even more precise and vital in the caregiving process.

How Is Technology Transforming Caregiving?

In the last 20 years, we've seen significant changes in how our society functions due to technology. It's no surprise that there may be similar changes in the future, especially regarding how we provide or receive long-term care. 

Technology, like many aspects of life, has made caregiving more accessible and intuitive than ever before. There are a few major trends we've seen:

  • A rise in the use of health care apps. 

  • Remote monitoring and telehealth.

  • Easier access to care information and resources online.

Health Care Apps Can Help With Care Management

Caregivers are utilizing the prevalence of phones with health care apps. Apps can help caregivers coordinate care, track symptoms, find out test results, schedule appointments, and order medication.

Many of these apps are also designed with the elderly in mind, meaning they’re intuitive to use and come with handicap modifications. These modifications can include the option to make text larger or use voice narration to read information on the screen. Many apps also have a text-to-speech option for those who struggle with typing on tiny keyboards.

Using healthcare apps can keep caregivers and care recipients more organized and connected, even when they're physically apart.

Caregivers Can Care From Afar With Remote Monitoring

With home care on the rise, many care providers are moving towards remote monitoring techniques and devices to help care recipients from a distance. 

Remote monitoring is when a care provider prescribes a device, usually used to track a condition, and monitors the stability from afar. For example, they may advise a blood glucose meter for a patient with diabetes. 

These devices help care providers track their patients' conditions without them needing to visit a care provider or vice versa. It cuts down on travel costs, reduces the risk of infection, and helps reduce hospital and doctor wait times. 

Easy Access to Caregiving Resources and Education

As more information and resources become readily available online, family caregivers may be able to reduce some of their stress or workload. The internet can help caregivers learn more about the conditions they're treating, but it can also connect them to the help they need in their area. 

For example, LTC News has a caregiver directory available to help you find the best quality care in your area. These resources would have been impossible before the widespread availability of the internet.

As time goes on, more crucial resources will become available to caregivers and care recipients, helping streamline care.


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How Are Caregiving Trends Affecting Care Recipients and Caregivers?

Caregiving and care recipients will experience radical changes as technology and time progresses. While we can't predict the future, we can give you an idea of the current changes happening in caregiving. Most of the trends in caregiving we're seeing are positive. 

For example, technology is streamlining patient care and making it easier for family caregivers to manage their loved one's health. 

Informal and family caregivers are gaining recognition for their hard work. There's been a rise in caregiving support groups, and some federal programs are toying with the idea of compensation for unpaid care. 

On the professional side, caregiving is becoming a stable career path, with many employers implementing training programs, better pay and benefits, and upward mobility pathways. 

Most people today wish to age in place at home; those who prefer or need care communities often choose assisted living facilities or continuing care retirement communities over nursing homes. Home care and community-based services are expected to grow in popularity as time goes on, and funding for these programs reflects that sentiment.  

These trends are reshaping the way we provide and receive care. As a society, we're moving towards a more streamlined and holistic approach to health care to provide a higher quality of life to seniors and caregivers alike. 

For more caregiving information, you may be interested in reading some of our other resources:

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