Consumer-Directed Services for Caregivers Take Hold in Most States
An increasing number of the nation’s elderly and disabled are electing to receive care from home and community-based services (HCBS) rather than live in nursing homes. But because caring for a family member takes a financial and emotional toll on the caregiver, many states are increasing funding for caregiver programs. A new report, Ahead of the Curve: Emerging Trends and Practices in Family Caregiver Support, written by Lynn Friss Feinberg, Kari Wolkwitz, and Cara Goldstein of Family Caregiver Alliance’s National Center on Caregiving, has been released by AARP to document new trends.
The report draws attention to the needs of the estimated 44 million Americans that provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities. As a result, new programs and services have been created across the country to benefit family caregivers.
“People want to stay in their homes, surround themselves with loved ones, and maintain a greater level of control over their care as they age,” said AARP Director of Policy and Strategy John Rother. “While this arrangement has benefits both economically and on the long-term care labor force, there is a growing recognition that the caregivers need a greater level of support to make the situation a success.”
The report found that consumer-directed service options are taking hold in most states. “This finding is not surprising,” said Rother. “Taking care of caregivers is simply smart public policy.”
To address the need there is a growing number of caregiver support initiatives. However, the report finds considerable variation exists among states and programs within states.
California’s state-funded Caregiver Resource Center (CRC) system, for example, enables caregivers to choose from a broad range of options. In-home respite, the most widely used option, allows caregivers to receive a voucher to pay for agency services or to hire private help (such as another family member, friend, or neighbor) to care for their relative.
In Georgia, the state conducted an effectiveness evaluation of consumer directed programs through the Gerontology Institute at Georgia State University. It found that consumer direction provides a safety net for many individuals, especially low-income caregivers living in rural areas. Researchers reported that the financial, emotional and physical relief provided by the care enables families to extend the time that care in the home is possible, thus avoiding nursing home placement.
“The demand for in-home caregiving is going to increase. To help ensure the quality of care, policy makers and health providers need to factor in an important part this equation—family caregivers,” said Rother.
For more on the emerging programs in these and other states, the full report can be found at: http://www.aarp.org/research/longtermcare/trends/Articles/inb107_caregiving.html.
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