When you and your family are looking at the costs of long-term care for a loved one—whether that is a nursing home or a part-time in-home caregiver—there probably don’t appear to be any savings. However, research shows that home care is, and will continue to, reduce overall health care costs.
The Home Care Association of America’s (HCAOA) new report, “Caring for America’s Seniors: The Value of Home Care,” highlights this aspect of in-home care.
It Starts In the Home
There is a growing greying population in the United States and a projected 20 percent of people will be 65 and over by 2030; that’s a 13 percent increase from 2010. Currently, 40 percent of adults over age 65 need assistance with activities of daily living. In other words, more people are going to need care in the home to do things like prepare healthy meals, get dressed, and more.
Home care can be relatively affordable when compared to other options for long-term care. Even having a family member step up to help an elder loved one can cost them lost time at their jobs and so that is a hidden cost to what can seem like a savings. In addition, the majority of people consistently say that it is their first preference to remain in their homes as they age, rather than relocate.
When someone receives quality in home care to help them transition after a hospital visit, on a consistent basis after a diagnosis with a chronic condition or degenerative disorder, or to support home health services, it can keep them safe, healthy and engaged with their friends and family. The companionship provided by a caregiver can make a difference in the 43% of elders who report feeling lonely, which has been shown to have detrimental effect on physical well-being too.
I’m Looking at You
When it comes to needing care, people often prefer to have someone they know—and likely are related to—that can help them out rather than hiring a stranger. Unfortunately, this is not always a sustainable choice for the family caregiver. Research shows high rates of stress and depression in family caregivers and sometimes there is a physical injury as the result of helping someone who needs help being transferred in and out of a bath or chair.
The difference with a professional caregiver is in the training and matching for the specific tasks needed. When a family caregiver damages their own health as a result of helping a loved one, there are more costs to deal with for everyone.
The Big Picture
We’ve all heard about the mushrooming costs of health care, but in-home care can be part of not just potentially saving individuals money on out-of-pocket health care costs but also overall costs in the country. According to the HCAOA’s report, in patients living with dementia, 66% of those without professional in-home care services were admitted to the hospital compared to only 58% of those with these services. In addition, people who engage home care services required 25% fewer doctor visits. When there is decreased demand for these services and people invest in private-pay home care, public health care costs are reduced. For example, it is estimated that more than 60% of national spending on nursing home care is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid or another public funding source. It appears that as much as $25 billion in hospital costs in 2008 was saved in the U.S. thanks in part to the increased use of home care services. For those with a Medicare co-pay for hospital admissions, home care services that successfully postpone or eliminate a visit to the hospital can also be a savings.
Home care is not a luxury service for a lucky few, but a viable option that benefits many.