I met a great woman today who had been a caregiver for her brother for eight years.  She took on the responsibility for him at home because she could not get coverage for her brother to be admitted to a nursing home even though he needed round-the-clock care. She had a growing business and couldn’t afford to stop working to care for him full-time; she hired caregivers through a Medicaid-sponsored program but that yielded unreliable aids who stole from from her and did not show up for their shifts.

Many people find themselves in a similar situation. They have a loved one who needs hours of care and, for one reason or another, they need help to provide the level of care that the loved one’s situation demands. While some can afford a caregiver from a five-star agency, others are left struggling to obtain help from caregivers at a much lower pay scale. The result is that people find themselves dealing with caregivers who understandably are not always committed to an assigned client. The demand is high for caregivers; there are always plenty of low-paying assignments. Bad shifts can be dropped without consequence.

At Shea Companions we believe very strongly in providing a high wage for our caregivers. We feel that it encourages commitment to the clients and increases the value of our caregivers to the clients. Yet we understand that not everyone can afford to pay caregivers well. So what about those families who cannot afford reliable care for their loved ones?

Currently, very few people have long-term care insurance. All of their money to pay for care will come out of their pockets and out of their savings until there is nothing left. Ultimately, Medicaid will pay for people with no money to be admitted to a nursing home. But here’s the problem. There aren’t going to be enough nursing homes to care for all of the people who need them. Never mind the fact that most people do not want to live in a nursing home. Even if everyone wanted to live in a nursing home, there would not be enough beds. Many people will have to stay at home. While a year in a nursing home costs less than full-time care at home, the majority of the aging population will need quality care at home so that they eat enough, stay hydrated, and have help bathing without falling. And they will need help to pay for it or else they will show up at emergency rooms at alarming rates or die of neglect.

The question is: what is this country going to do about the problem? Insurance and/or the government is going to have to find a way to help the aging Baby Boom population. I know that I do not have enough facts, answers, or even good suggestions at this point. I am just opening this up for discussion and thought. But I intend to learn and share what I know with you. Maybe in the future we can reach a place where people can receive good care from dedicated help in a living arrangement that makes economic sense for all of us.

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