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This is the toughest job that 1.8m Pennsylvanians will ever do | Opinion

By Vicki Hoak

There’s a job that 1.8 million Pennsylvanians do every day that demands 24/7 attention.

Vicki Hoak 

It is a job that requires putting someone else’s safety and well-being before your own and takes great physical and emotional strength, and many times requires the skill of a nurse. This job is family caregiving.

Every day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and more and more seniors want to remain in their homes as they age, in the communities where they built their lives. But what happens if they need help?

Today family and friends provide most of the care, but they are seldom paid and frequently are not trained to do the tasks needed, such as transferring their loved one from the shower to a wheelchair, managing narcotics, or caring for a wound.   

According to AARP Pennsylvania, this uncompensated care totals $20 billion each year, which results in savings for our state’s Medicaid program because families are taking care of their loved one at home, rather than sending them to a nursing home. This is important because nursing home care is an entitlement program in this country.

If a person qualifies for Medicaid – meaning they have few assets and low income – then Medicaid must pick up the tab for nursing home care, but not for in-home care. 

Despite the significant financial impact family caregiving has on state and federal budgets, this country still lacks effective policies to address the challenges of long-term care and in particular family caregiving.

According to a 2016 University of Pittsburgh report, Addressing the Needs of Caregivers at Risk: A New Policy Strategy, there is a patchwork of small, uncoordinated programs that do not yet meet the current and future needs of this population.

Even though family caregivers provide more than 90 percent of the long-term care received by 12 million Americans, their access to financial support, flexible employment and social supports that would facilitate and enhance the care they provide are extremely limited. 

For now, the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, which represents homecare and hospice agencies that frequently supplement the care provided by families, has developed a resource, Secrets No One Ever Told You About Family Caregiving, which addresses some tough issues that many families are confronted with all the time.

Those include such as talking about when is it time to turn to hospice care, how a  daughter helps her aging father in the bathroom, or understanding that sometimes forgetfulness or even hallucinations are not connected to Alzheimer’s but rather a urinary tract infection (UTI)? 

These are just some of the topics covered in PHA’s new publication, Secrets.

While homecare, hospice professionals and families continue to advocate in Congress, and as well as in our state legislature, for better public policy to address our aging population, Secrets is one more way to support family caregivers and provide some of the expertise from our healthcare professionals who bring care home to nearly one million Pennsylvanians each year.

Secrets is free for family caregivers. Call your local homecare, hospice or home health agency for a copy, or PHA at 1-800-382-1211, ext. 21 or email yourpartner@pahomecare.org.

Vicki Hoak is the CEO of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, an industry trade group. She writes from Lemoyne, Pa.

Article source: http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2017/09/this_is_the_toughest_job_that.html

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