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August 14, 2018 | Getting the Support You Need for Aging Parents

No one wants to put their parent in a nursing home. Yet, more people are faced with the reality of having to make this decision today than ever before. With the increased prevalence of chronic conditions (1 in 3 Americans have one), as well as an influx of aging adults experiencing debilitating health issues like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease— we must prepare for the likely future of providing care and gaining the support needed for aging parents or loved ones.

As life expectancies increase and the 65+ demographic continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to have a system in place for taking care of our aging population. The pressure for adult children, or close family members, to provide the highest quality care while also working full-time jobs and caring for their own children can often seem insurmountable.

Long known to have a positive impact on health outcomes, care management for patients with chronic conditions is now being covered by Medicare. The importance of preventative care, daily physical activity, good nutrition, and a supportive medical community should not be underestimated as an effective way to decrease the need for hospital and nursing homestays. The earlier these activities begin – the better the outcome.

This is one of the many reasons Medicare is promoting Chronic Care Management programs.

More consistent care paired with earlier intervention can decrease nursing home stays and emergency care visits – the most costly type of care for all parties involved. When patient health concerns are addressed proactively overall medical costs can be better controlled and improved.

Understandably, even though this type of care is covered, many patients and their caretakers don’t know where to start. They may want to begin living a healthier lifestyle, but doctor’s orders can be hard to remember or follow on a consistent basis. So how can this be built into the current caregiver model?

Up to 80% of caregiving is provided by the family members of the patient. Caregiving responsibilities are numerous and overwhelming. Tasks may include medication management, lifestyle management, and care provider coordination. This is time-consuming and confusing, especially for first-time caregivers. Many family caregivers will tell you they wish they had more assistance from other family members or friends. According to one study, 31% of family caregivers admit they’d like more help. Remote chronic care management programs can help ease the caregiver burden.

When beginning to care and support aging parents, there are inevitable difficulties in knowing where to begin with the coordination of care. People with 2 or more chronic diseases have a variety of medications and doses needed at various times – as well as a multitude of physicians who provide them with care. Getting multiple physicians on the same page and aware of medications and procedures that the patient is receiving can be a job in itself. Oftentimes, the family caregiver may not be educated on the importance of ensuring care coordination and communication among all parties.

A chronic care coordinator (CCC), can provide the help new caregivers need.

The CCC can navigate volumes of medical history to create an individualized care plan, reconcile medications and provide guidance on the appropriate clinical and social interventions available. When patients and their caregivers don’t know what preventative healthcare measures are available to them, health conditions may worsen or new health conditions may arise. The CCC can help educate patients, and their caregivers, on preventative health measures like screenings and immunizations – to help prevent additional health complications. Through the CCC, chronic care management programs provide the education required to make the right health decisions, at the right time.

Most often, patients see their primary care doctor or specialist for an appointment just once a year. With this frequency of office visits, maintaining compliance with health and social care recommendations can prove difficult for both the patient and the caregiver. This is especially applicable to those with a deteriorating mental state. There is evidence that patients make healthier choices when they are accountable and actively engaged in the management of their own health.

With a stronger team working together, with and on behalf of the patient, patients can maintain or even improve their health more easily. Chronic care management programs can provide the care coordination assistance that caregivers need to develop a stronger support system for your aging parents. They can also help in providing higher quality care while increasing positive health outcomes that can keep your aging parents out of nursing homes longer.