Tom Riley, Seniorlink’s CEO, was published in U.S. News & World Report discussing the reemergence of family-centered care due to changing demographics. In this commentary piece titled “The Great Caregiving Comeback”, Riley shared his thoughts on the shifting attitude across American culture of returning care to the home through the reigniting of the family caregiver.
“According to the RAND Corp., family caregivers provide $520 billion worth of care each year. This invisible army of dedicated individuals knows their “patients” better than a remote health care practitioner; they appreciate the flow of ordinary life, the incremental changes that can foreshadow upcoming health events. Family caregivers are uniquely focused on the care of one person and possess the inherent trust that is critical to gathering necessary information to intervene. Proximity means that they can effectively serve as the eyes and ears of the health care system, provided the system is inclined to pay attention.
As facility-based care proliferated and costs grew, policymakers realized alternatives were needed. A new category of government-run programs was developed called home- and community-based services (HCBS), many of which focus on allowing aging adults to stay at home longer. Spending on HCBS in Medicaid grew steadily from zero in 1980 to surpass the total spent on facility-based care in 2013.
Reintroducing family members to the care planning process will require a major shift in thinking for everyone involved, from governments to health systems to family members themselves. But that shift is happening: Nearly 40 states have passed the CARE Act that requires the inclusion of family members in the hospital discharge planning process. In January, Congress passed and the president signed the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, a law that obligates the secretary of health and human services to create a national strategy for supporting family caregivers.
At the program level, providers are seeing the need for and potential benefits of supporting family caregivers. The best of these programs combines the empathy of human coaches with technology to reach more families and enable caregivers to access resources in their communities that address social determinants of health, like respite care, transportation or meal services.”
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