An increasing number of Americans are caring for loved ones at home. A neighbor in your apartment building may be a family caregiver. A family on your block may be caring for a loved one at home. A church friend may be a home caregiver and tells you about the experience after services.
Statistics support the home caregiving trend and some are startling.
According to a November 2009 report from the National Alliance for Caregiving, some 65 million people, that’s 29 percent of the entire population, are caring for an ill, disabled or aged family member. Fifty-nine to seventy-five percent of all caregivers are female, notes a 2003 Health and Human Services report to Congress. The so-called “free” services provided by family caregivers adds up to a whopping $375 billion a year.
You may be caring for a loved one in your home and, if you are, the rise in home healthcare isn’t a surprise. It’s your new normal. The reasons for the increase in home healthcare are pretty straight forward.
1. Advances in medicine have increased life span. Not that long ago the average age at death was 68 years old. Today, the average age at death is 79 years old, and the number of older adults in our nation has increased markedly.
2. Nursing homes are common, but many communities don’t have enough of them to meet demand. Nursing homes have waiting lists and moving up on the list can take months or years. Even if your loved one moves up, she or he may not get the desired room.
3. Home care is cheaper than nursing home care. The cost of nursing home care is about $70,000 a year, according to “Comparing Costs for In-Home Care, Nursing Care, Assisted Living and Adult Day Care,” an article on the Our Parents website. A private room costs even more, the article continues, about $79,000 a year.
4. Home healthcare is cheaper than assisted living. With assisted living you pay for the apartment, pay for meals, pay for medical back-up, pay for storage, pay for parking, and may pay for building improvements.
5. Home healthcare is less institutional, and this is comforting for your loved one. Your loved one feels at home because she or he is home, surrounded by familiar people and familiar things.
6. Though you’re caring for a loved one at home, you can still get help from a caregiving agency. While this help isn’t cheap, it reduces the burden on the caregiver. Together, the family caregiver and agency caregiver form a network of support.
7. Today, caregiving help is more available and there are many websites for family caregivers, government publications, agencies, and specialized magazines. Home healthcare is love in action, plain and simple.