|Caregivers provide assistance to other people who because of physical disability, chronic illness or cognitive impairment are unable to perform certain activities on their own. So-called informal care can be offered by family members or friends, often in a home setting. Or paid or volunteer professional care, so-called formal care, can be obtained at home, in the community or from institutions such as nursing facilities or government institutions.
Roughly, 11.1 million Americans of all ages are receiving formal or informal care at any given time. This represents about 4% of the population and is comprised of about 9.5 million receiving care at home or in the community and another 1.6 million residing in nursing or intermediate care facilities.
About 25.8 million family caregivers provide personal assistance to individuals 18 years or older who have a disability or chronic illness. And nearly one out of every four households (22.4 million households) is involved in giving care to persons aged 50 or older. About 43% of those receiving care are under the age of 65 and are evenly spread between ages 18 to 64. Children under 18 and receiving assistance because of disability are often characterized under different criteria of caregiving.
Sometimes human caregivers can be replaced or assisted by mechanical devices. These might include special computer systems for communication, special locomotion equipment, remote vital sign monitoring devices or remote oversight monitoring. Continued technology advances may help relieve the time commitment of human caregivers.
Since the implementation of the Medicare Prospective Payment System in 1999, home health agencies have been looking for more cost-effective ways to provide care. Telehomecare is a more effective way to deliver home care under certain circumstances. Since it is a rapidly developing field, it’s difficult to define all telehomecare applications. It usually involves two-way electronic communication between the patient and the formal caregiver such as a nurse or doctor. Communication can occur with two-way radio, telephone or as is usually the case, two-way interactive video using a computer and phone lines or satellite downlink. This electronic face-to-face home visit also requires some means for the care provider–who might be hundreds of miles away– to access patient vital signs and receive patient-initiated medical tests. The patient or her in-home informal caregiver has been trained to use electronic monitoring or test equipment that sends the relevant video snapshots or numeric data via phone line, or radio wave to the formal caregiver.
|Telehomecare is not only more cost-effective but also in many cases it provides a higher quality of care. Here are some of the ways telehomecare is proving to be beneficial:|
|Although electronic monitoring of patients is also a function of telehomecare, it is also becoming a primary source of supplemental home care service not always involving the use of a home health agency. This area of assistance focuses more on the use of devices that warn of problems with homebound people who are often without caregivers for certain periods of the day. This may include 24-hour vital sign monitoring, video surveillance, emergency signaling systems or GPS locator devices for wandering care recipients. To find products and services go to:|
|The Plight Of Informal Caregivers|
|Caregiving can be very stressful and demanding. In the case of a healthy spouse or a child living with the disabled person at home, caregiving can be a 24 hour, 7 day a week commitment. But even for the caregiver not living in the home, looking after a loved-one or friend can consume all of the caregiver’s free time.
Surveys and studies consistently show that depression is a major problem with full-time informal caregivers. This is typically brought on by stress and fatigue as well as social isolation from family and friends. If allowed to go on too long, the caregiver can sometimes break down and may end up needing long-term care as well.
A typical pattern may unfold as follows: 1 to 18 months–the caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support. 20 to 36 months–the caregiver is taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless. 38 to 50 months–Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the caregiver’s physical health is beginning to deteriorate.
Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help. It is often at this stage that family or friends intercede and find other solutions for care. This may include respite care, hiring home health aides or putting the disabled in a facility. Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long-term care as well.
Since most people go into informal caregiving without training or counseling they often aren’t aware of the possible outcome described above. It is therefore extremely important to receive counseling and to formulate a plan of action prior to making a caregiving commitment.
In 1965 Congress passed the Older Americans Act which provides guidance and funding to the States to give help to caregivers. All states offer programs at no cost or very low cost which might include: counseling, caregiver training, respite care, adult day care, meals, support groups and much, much more. IT IS VITAL FOR THE HEALTH AND LONGEVITY OF ALL CAREGIVERS TO MAKE USE OF THESE SERVICES. We have compiled a list of each state’s web-based, caregiving services. These services are typically provided by area agencies on aging.
Click here to find a link to the area agency on aging in your state.
–Thomas DayAdapted from http://www.ltclink.net/about_caregiving.html