Medi­care Spouses, kids are car­ing for older pa­tients, but they get lit­tle sup­port

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Steven Ross John­son

Nearly 9 out of 10 care­givers for older Amer­i­cans are un­paid, and those in­di­vid­u­als work longer hours and re­ceive less gov­ern­ment sup­port than their paid coun­ter­parts, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

Ap­prox­i­mately 900,000 Medi­care ben­e­fi­cia­ries re­ceived sup­port from 2.3 mil­lion care­givers in 2011, ac­cord­ing to the study pub­lished in Health Af­fairs. Re­searchers an­a­lyzed data from Medi­care ben­e­fi­cia­ries who lived in com­mu­nity set­tings and died within one year of study en­roll­ment.

That’s just the tip of the ice­berg. In 2015, roughly 34 mil­lion Amer­i­cans had pro­vided un­paid care to an adult age 50 or older in the pre­vi­ous 12 months, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Na­tional Al­liance for Care­giv­ing and AARP.

Un­paid end-of-life care­givers pro­vide nearly dou­ble the hours of sup­port per week com­pared to other care­givers, but they did not re­ceive ad­di­tional pay from gov­ern­ment or pri­vate in­sur­ance, ac- cord­ing to the Health Af­fairs study.

The study il­lus­trated the heavy eco­nomic burden fam­ily care­givers can face when they pro­vide end-of-life sup­port and how the health­care sys­tem re­lies on fam­ily mem­bers to take on that care, ac­cord­ing to Kather­ine Orn­stein, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of geri­atrics and pal­lia­tive medicine at the Ic­ahn School of Medicine at Mount Si­nai in New York City and lead au­thor of the study.

“We need to do more to make sure that our in­fra­struc­ture is sup­port­ing (fam­ily care­giv­ing) so that it can be done well and that the con­se­quences for fam­ily mem­bers are not neg­a­tive,” Orn­stein said.

The Na­tional Al­liance for Care­giv­ing and AARP cal­cu­lated that un­paid care pro­vided by friends or fam­ily mem­bers was val­ued at roughly $470 bil­lion in 2013.

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