Costs to family caregivers of the chronically ill

November 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

According to AARP, the value of family caregivers financially to society is growing tremendously. From 2006 to 2007, the costs increased by 7 %. Family caregivers are providing a valuable service to society. The Wall Street Journal article on Nov. 20, 2008 cites a representative of AARP in stating that there needs to be an increase in funding for the National Caregiver Support Program I also think that the program needs to be expanded for family members caring for family members under 60. We need to start pushing our legislators for more recognition for the contributions (financially, and life sacrifices) of family caregivers.

Low levels of physical exertion helps older caregivers from health problems associated with caregiving

October 30, 2008 by  
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A recent study reported by MedPage Today suggests that physical exertion will help in the mortality rate of older caregivers between ages 70-79. The study also found that white males were the least likely to be caregivers. I find this to be fairly predictable based on anecdotal evidence from observations of situations with friends, family, and other people. Males have a tendency to fall back into the shadows and not participate. The women step up and take on all the problems assuming that the men will never step up enabling the men to not help unless there appears to be some benefit. Have any of you ever experienced this phenomenon?

Value of having caregivers

October 26, 2008 by  
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I have spent my life always being the one to step in and be the caregiver when one was needed. For the last 6 weeks, I had to be the cared for. I need help because I had rotator cuff surgery and was unable to care for myself and my 4 dogs. First, my elderly parents came to help. They took me to the hospital for my outpatient surgery and then forgot me for 2 hours. They misunderstood the nurse’s call that I was ready. Worrying that they may have gotten into an accident made the pain medications and surgery fuzziness go away. My parents were kind, caring, and really helped as much as they could. But, I never slept during the day even the first few days after the surgery because I had to worry that the dogs did not trip them, that they could walk far enough and get into their motorhome. They stayed a week and I appreciated that they cared enough to help and I felt like it made them feel better in that we do not always get along. Then my son flew in. He had just recovered from a collapsed lung. He does not cook or do yard work. I have almost .23 of an acre. So I would sneak out and clean the dog poop one armed. He was great about making sure I did my exercises and kept the ice on. He took great care of the dogs and I loved talking politics with him. He stayed 3 weeks. Then, one of my former students came and stayed for 5 days until the doctor said I could start PT and get out of the sling. I had people around for 5 days. I felt helpless but lucky to have people I could trust and cared. I still can’t do much for myself but I am thankful that I had people to care for me so that the chances of my arm recuperating completely are great. What bothers me is that many people don’t have people to rely on for 5 weeks, even 1 week. My thoughts go to not people like me who just had a surgery and did not have a chronic or life threatening condition, but to all of those people who don’t have good assistance in their time of need. It makes me think that with all of the baby boomers aging that insurance companies should setup policies or cover more caregiving options. If I had not had help, it would be almost a given that I would retear and need surgery again and my insurance probably would not cover it. What are your ideas for getting assistance through insurance for caregivers?

Caregiver needing care

October 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

Well it has been a while. I went up and got the two kids Cody (10) and Elizabeth (6) so that their mom could continue tests to determine her complete diagnosis. These kids have been through so much in the last year. Their Grandpa died from a complication from surgery in March 2007. Then within 21/2 months their Grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. She died in December after their mother, their aunt, and the rest of the family including them, spent as much time as possible taking care of her. Their father hurt his back around March and then was diagnosed with spinal chord tumor which was operated on in early May. He was to be off work for at least a year because he lost much of the feeling on his right side. Within 5 or 6 weeks, their mom felt a lump in her breast and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer but not yet given the battery of tests to determine the severity. By the time I picked up the kids in early July, she had decided no matter what she would have a double mastectomy due to the family history of her mother’s death and our cousin on the same side of the family. I wanted to bring the kids down to CA for a few weeks until my cousin and her husband could deal with the changing roles and life issues without the kids. I wanted the kids to have time away from words like “cancer” “surgery” and the yelling that was going on because of the stress of the year. My goal for our time together was to get them to express their feelings about their mom, dad, their relationship, and their grandma’s death. But as the diagnosis got worse and worse, I realized I needed to prepare them to help take care of their house in a way to minimize germs for their mom as she went through chemo and possibly a few surgeries. It may me think about the challenge of being the caregiver (my cousin to her children and husband recuperating from major surgery) and now facing a disease that has killed your mother and your cousin knowing that you will move from full time caregiver to caregiving when you feel well and being cared for by those you feel a responsibility to care for. It was definitely hard enough to care for Cody and Elizabeth without me working, feeling ill, or stressed by other life factors. What must my cousin feel. She helped care for my aunt and knows both the pain of caring for someone who had always cared for you and watching that person lose her dignity. When we think of caregiving, we typically think of an elderly person or someone with a chronic illness or disability or a illness leading to death but what about the caregiver that will have to accept the care of his/her children or spouse that she/he had always cared for. The pain of not being there for them because you are too tired. The sadness associated with not being able to seem upbeat and spunky during the happy times of your young children. I can only imagine what she is going through. She has Stage 4 breast and Stage 4 bone and a possible spot on her kidney. What type of help does a caregiver like my cousin need? Those of you out there that have witnessed this phenomenon how was it handled. I know my cousin is still working and trying to do as much as possible for her children. She is upbeat and has a positive attitude but her situation is so very different that caring for a middle aged person with adult children. My cousin is a great mom and right now she is only concerned about how this is effecting those she has been caring for, not how she is doing. She is much like her mom. When I was taking care of my aunt she tried to keep most of the family away because she had always been the rock so she wasn’t sure that everyone could handle the chores needed. She found out that all of us rose to the occasion. But how do children that have seen so much death in the last year, rise to the occasion and not have it effect their school work and relationships with others?

Caregiver again?

July 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

I was just recovering from the fatigue and depression that I felt after caring for my aunt as she lost her battle with breast cancer. And now, my cousin (my aunt’s daughter) was just diagnosed with breast cancer (one week after her mother in law was diagnosed with lung cancer and 6 weeks after her husband had major spinal chord surgery). She has 2 children, works, and has been taking care of her husband and his mother. From May 2007 to Dec 2007, she helped care for her mother. Now life has dealt her a big blow. I have volunteered to take her children for 2 weeks while she has more tests before a double mastectomy. This time I have to make sure I take care of myself because soon I will have to take care of my elderly parents. More importantly, I must be mentally and physically healthy enough to be there for my cousin and her family. Hence, I will drive the 14 hours to pick them up when I do not have to cancel any of my previously scheduled appointments. I learned from the first time that if you don’t take care of yourself while you are caregiving, you may end up needing care yourself.

Long Term Health Care premium tax credit with Caregiver Credit

June 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

The Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney has introduced a bill H.R. 6237 that would provide a federal tax credit for Long Term Health Care insurance premiums and a caregiver tax credit under certain circumstances. You can see the rest of the article on Courant.com (June 14). The entire bill can be found on the Library of Congress Thomas. It is in the very early stages of being considered in Congress. People should contact their representatives and let them know how they would feel about such a bill. There is a need for tax credits for Long Term Health Care premiums and relief for family caregivers. What do you think about such a bill?

Employee caregiving help benefits

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

In April, there was an article in Inside Indiana Business that cited a 2006 Metlife Mature Market Institute study showing that US businesses lose between $17.1 to 33.6 billion dollars in productivity due to employees caregiving responsibilities. The purpose of the article was to highlight the proposal of an Indiana based company, My Health Care Manager LLC., that employees and employers become educated on the need for some form of a voluntary caregiving assistance benefit. This would help both the employees as well as employers. Obviously, the employee would pay for the majority but the companies would do the leg work to find and research reputable companies to assist employee caregivers in juggling their work and caregiving responsibilities. With all of the baby boomers turning 60, there is going to be a need for national attention on the services family caregivers provide for our society and to identify what support caregivers need so that taxpayers don’t pick up the tab. There has not been much attention paid to caregivers in this long primary season. For those of us that identify ourselves as “caregivers,” we must start interacting to get a sense of what types of support (government, insurance companies, etc) are needed so that when our caregiving duties are over, we don’t need a caregiver.

Long Term Health Care

May 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

This is a portion of a good article on long term health care (LTHC) on Forbes.com (May 22,2008) under investments.

Long-term-care insurance may not be right for every situation. It may not be the answer for people who can rely on family members to provide care for them at home, says Michael Haubrich, a fee-only certified financial planner in Racine, Wis.

“Most of my clients have family members who are willing and able to assist in keeping them out of institutional care,” Haubrich explains. “In those cases, the most valuable asset is cash, not insurance. Having that cash will allow the family to be unconstrained by policy limitations that exclude payments to family members and unlicensed service providers.”

The flipside of this argument is that having long-term-care insurance alleviates the pressure on a spouse or family member to be the primary caregiver, says Don R. Campfield, the national sales director of Guardian’s long-term-care division. “This shifts the emotional burden,” he adds.

This is an interesting argument. My parents bought long term health care (LTHC) years ago because they did not want to be a burden. However, when they bought it people were not living as long. I have continually asked them to review the policy but they are convinced that it will meet their needs. Any of you who have looked into such policies know that they are expensive and they do not cover the length of time that many people spend with different illnesses and conditions. In an article in February, Forbes.com discussed some of the options for LTHC. I would love to hear your perspective on what policies and companies seemed best for your purposes.

Think of yourself as a “caregiver”

May 17, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

One year ago when I arrived at my aunt’s house to care for her, I thought of myself as her niece and friend. I was there to help my aunt as she battled breast cancer. Around the house, she had some books entitled something like, “Rights of caregivers.” She had picked them up during her vigilant, 7 week, attempt at helping the hospital professionals work with her husband after heart surgery. In her words, ” he was not helping the professionals, nor was he helping himself recover.” He died just a few weeks before my aunt found out that her breast cancer had returned. During that time, she got 10 of those books for herself and her children and step children. In reality, she had been her husband’s caregiver for years and years. In all those years, she never verbalized her role as “caregiver.” From my discussions with people caring for family members or friends, most consider themselves someone helping the one they love in a time of need.

To those of us helping our loved one through difficult times, a caregiver is someone you hire to help if don’t have the time or skills to care for your loved one. I remember early on my aunt said, “have you seen or read the caregiver book I got during Bill’s illness?” Why would I need to read such a book, I was her niece helping her because I had the time and I loved her. I was not her caregiver. It really did not hit me until about 6 months in that I realized, but never verbalized, that I was her primary caregiver. I was there 24 hours a day. I slept with a baby monitor so I could her if she got up in the night and needed help. I had to make sure she ate and drank correctly. My cousins became her caregivers, more than her daughters. Not by choice, but by circumstance. It was not until my aunt died that I realized what a toll those 8 months had on me mentally and physically. Maybe if I had read the book on the Caregiver Rights and then looked up information about “caregiving” in general, and more specifically the role and demands placed on a “caregiver,” I may have taken better care of myself.

I believe that until those of us that take care of those we love begin to verbalize our role as “caregiver,” not niece, husband, etc., we will not receive the recognition as a powerful enough group to force legislators, policy makers, and insurance companies to address issues directly related to our needs and the needs of those we care for. More importantly, I have found there is not a group labeled “caregivers.” Instead there are autism caregivers, alzheimers caregivers, aging parents caregivers, spinal chord injury caregivers, and on and on. It is true that each of those categories of caregivers may have different challenges and rewards related to the difficulties that their loved ones face. However, I would guess that there are more similarities in how the specific tasks associated with the caregiving duties impact the mental, physical, and emotional well being of the one caring for their loved one; “the caregiver.” If we split up into factions of caregivers, no one will get enough resources to make a major difference. How many of you have had a difficult time using the term caregiver instead of husband, wife, daughter, friend, niece, etc. Yet, if we could bring ourselves to view ourselves as “caregiver,” we probably would take advantage of the services offered for caregivers and be able to identify and lobby for other services that we need to better care ourselves and our loved ones. What are your views on this topic?

Family caregiver legislation is introduced

May 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Articles, News

Today Senators Mikulski and Klobuchar introduced federal legislation called the AGE (Americans Giving care to Elders) Act and the Long Term Care Insurance Integrity Act . Check out the media release and Senator Mikulski’s web page. This looks like a good beginning because it monitors long term health care practices and offers a tax credit for elderl care. Any of you that have researched such policies know that it is very difficult to determine what is best for you because as health care prices and longevity increases there are so many variables to consider. Make sure your Congress people know that you are interested in legislation dealing with issues related to caregiver needs and long term health care oversight.

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