It is Time to Help the Neglected Primary Home Caregiver

“Approximately 87% of Americans who need long-term care receive it from informal, or unpaid, caregivers.” [Caregiving in the U.S. 2009 – National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP]

“The vast majority- 80%- of elderly people receiving assistance, including many with several functional limitations, live in private homes in the community, not in institutions.” [Selected Long-Term Care Statistics – Family Caregiver Alliance]

These statistics offer a window into healthcare in the United States. A significant portion of elder care is done in the home by unpaid caregivers. These caregivers shoulder the burden of healthcare with little or no resources. The time is right to provide these champions of homecare the tools that they need.

Some additional numbers to frame homecare in the U.S.

It is large

“An estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months.” [2015 Report – Homecare in the U.S.” AARP]

Centered on family

“A vast majority of caregivers (85%) care for a relative or other loved one:” [Caregiver Statistics: Demographics]

Expensive

“At $470 billion in 2013, the value of unpaid caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care and total Medicaid spending in the same year, …” [AARP Public Policy Institute. (2015). Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update.]”

Who are the caregivers?

• The majority of caregivers are female (60%)(i).
• They are 49 years of age, on average (i).

Why are they unpaid?

Taken from the HHS handbook on Medicare and Home Health Care:
“… Medicare covers the following services if they’re reasonable and necessary for the treatment of your illness or injury: …”

Note the words: “… illness or injury…”;

In other words, Medicare pays for treatment, not for elderly care giving.
The primary caregiver and caregiving tasks

The following characteristics particularly apply to primary caregivers:

Have no perceived choice in taking on the role of caregiving. (i)
Have the caregiving responsibility for over four years. (i)
Perform many caregiving duties, including nursing level tasks (i)
Have another job (i)

Current software tools for primary caregivers

The evidence of home caregiver neglect can be seen in the limited software tools available. There are three categories of tools currently available.

Three-Ring Binder

To those who have lived in a world of electronic documentation, the popular, recommended, health management approach is difficult to embrace: the three-ring binder. Three-ring binders are correctly recognized as a flexible and extensible way to manage caregiver information.
Disparate Software Tools

Another approach to healthcare information management is to cobble together a set of disparate software tools to address different caregiving needs. An example of this is reflected in the following AARP post: 9 Need-to-Know Technologies for Caregivers. In this post, several different software tools are offered to help with essential caregiving “Medication management” and “Care Coordination” tasks.

Tools for Caregiving Agencies

There are several caregiver software products on the market today. These products tend to focus on the needs of institutional caregiving, e.g. agencies that provide caregivers who go into the home for a fee. A large focus of these tools centers on the management of staff and client accounts, specifically agencies must bill their clients and pay their caregivers. Quite appropriately, agencies logically seek software that features these billing and payroll capabilities.

Conclusion

The time is right to build effective software tools for primary home caregivers.
These tools are needed.
It is timely.
It is the right thing to do.

About the Author

Craig Maxey, Founder and CEO of Red Boat Care Software

Over 35 years in software engineering and user interface/product design.  Principal of White Pond Design, LLC.  BS, MS Electronic Engineering; BS Physics.

References

(i) Caregiving in the U.S. (2015) AARP (http://www.aarp.org/ppi/info-2015/caregiving-in-the-united-states-2015.html)

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