With more than 56 million Baby Boomers reaching the age of 65 and older, members of the generations that follow have their hands full, often caught between balancing care for children and parents. By the end of the decade, 20 percent of the total population will be over 65
Approximately 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 will need some assistance of some kind at some point, according to research conducted by the Home Care Association of America and Global Coalition on Aging. Moreover, 40 percent of adults in this age group already need some sort of daily assistance.
Traditionally, caregiving was done by family members. More than 34.2 million Americans, mostly spouses and children, serve as family caregivers, spending an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care.
But in today’s increasingly expensive, demanding environment, those that could be caregivers are in the workforce or have moved away from home for their own family needs. AARP estimates that the ratio of potential family caregivers to those over 80 will decrease from 7:1 today to 4:1 by 2030, and to less than 3:1 by 2050. Nursing homes are another traditional option, but most Americans would prefer to remain in their own home, or age in place, with their familiar surroundings.
So who can provide that necessary care and help with things like meal preparation, medication reminders and companionship? This is where professional caregivers come into the picture.
A professional caregiver, or home care, is still a relatively new concept for many people. Hiring a caregiver allows patients–whatever the age–to remain safe at home as they recoup from an illness, surgery or simply age in place rather than move to an assisted living facility or nursing home. Caregivers provide one-on-one care for patients that is focused on safety at home, activities of daily living and quality of life. They are typically overseen by an agency’s director of nursing, who monitors the patient’s plan of care, wellbeing and progress.
Caregivers perform tasks that may include:
- Safety/Fall Protection
- Limited Transportation
- Accompany to Doctor Appointments
- Grocery Shopping
- Incontinence Care
- Laundry/Light Housekeeping
- Meal Preparation
- Medication Reminders
- Oral Hygiene
- Recreational Activities
- Respite/Relief for Families
- Transferring and Positioning
- Walking and Mobility
Having a caregiver in the home for the elderly has been proven to save almost $25 million in hospital costs, according to HCAOA research. Money-saving measures include fall prevention, adequate nutrition and good hygiene just from having someone regularly in the home.
Caregivers can also provide doctors and families with valuable information from their consistent interaction with patients that may help to improve diagnosis and treatment.
Professional caregivers are licensed by the New Jersey Board of Nursing after 76 hours of training that is a combination of classroom and clinical training. The Board of Nursing also conducts criminal background checks and the license must be renewed every two years.
They can assist with activities of daily living that may include bathing, dressing, meal preparation, feeding assistance and light housekeeping to ensure cleanliness. The caregivers also provide assurance for the family that someone is with their loved one, giving an extra set of eyes and ears when they can’t be there.
Caregivers may also provide transportation to their charges, helping them keep medical appointments and remain active in the community, which reduces isolation, depression and declines in mental function.
These professionals are usually employed by agencies that take care of scheduling, additional background checks, training and human resources of employing someone.
In addition to providing valuable care for patients, professional caregivers benefit the economy by increasing workforce productivity. Informal caregiving, such as running mom to the doctor, is estimated to amount to $34 billion in annual productivity losses. These losses include $6.6 billion in employee turnover, $6.3 billion in workday adjustments, $5.1 billion in absenteeism, $4.8 billion when caregiving requires a change in status from full-time work to part-time. Other workplace fallouts include giving up on a promotion or opportunities, early retirement or loss of benefits.