Availability of Future Home Caregivers is Cause for Concern

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a unanimous decision regarding home care workers and overtime. The Court said that certain types of home care workers remain exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime laws.

The existing shortage of qualified long-term care workers is projected to get much worse as Baby Boomers age. The Court’s decision may do little to encourage people to consider a career as an at-home caregiver. Most of us want our professional long-term caregivers to be caring, competent, reliable, and pleasant. How can we as a society expect to attract people into this occupation if they can’t necessarily count on making even minimum wage?

Many people want to remain in their homes forever and hire home-based long-term care services. Here are some challenges and tips to make finding quality professional home care easier.

Challenge #1: Part-time home caregivers want to work close to their own home since they are not usually paid for travel time. This means patients whose homes are far away from caregivers may find it hard to get the care they need.
It may be easier to get help from a qualified home care agency if you live in a highly populated area that attracts businesses and organizations, and also is more likely to benefit from government programs and funding. If you are investigating retirement locations, you can find this kind of information at www.census.gov. If you live in a rural area, consider hiring non-agency, independent home caregivers (who generally cost less than agency caregivers), or friends and neighbors.

Challenge #2: Full-time home caregivers can be very expensive and hard to find.

A live-in, professional home caregiver may be more reliable than scheduling multiple people. Many patients would prefer the consistency of having the same person caring for them versus continually having to adapt to new caregivers. If you like this option, consider the logistics when you choose your retirement housing. You will need at least two bedrooms for this option to work well. Three bedrooms and two baths would allow a friend or child to comfortably visit and stay over.

Challenge #3: A proper home plan of care may include personal caregivers, homemaker services (cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping), or even occasional visits by nurses, physical therapists, and dieticians. Finding and coordinating these services is a burden that usually falls on the spouse/partner or adult children.

An independent ‘geriatric care manger’ can give expert advice to help you find and hire appropriate caregivers, and monitor the in home long-term care services you may need. You can find a geriatric care manager to hire privately at www.caremanager.org.

What about our government programs? Medicare and Medicaid primarily cover only institutional care. Medicare only pays up to 100 days per benefit period for care in a nursing home. Medicaid pays for nursing home care, but only after you’ve spent down your assets to the state assigned poverty level. The surge of baby boomers coming into retirement will likely put a strain on the homecare industry. While millions of people may need care, only those with sufficient assets or long term care insurance may be able to afford to remain in their homes.

For those of us who are not independently wealthy, long-term care (LTC) insurance just may put us on a level playing field, allowing us to compete for the limited caregivers available. Many LTC insurance policies cover home care, and most also have a care management or care coordinator benefit built in to the policy. One plan I know of will pay for independent caregivers and will even pay benefits for friends and neighbors to care for you in your home and you can hire an independent geriatric care manger of your choice.

People who have put plans in place will be better positioned to afford whatever care they need or desire.-

Jeff Reilly, LUTCF, CLTC has been licensed since 1989, specializing in long-term care insurance planning, ranking in the top 1{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of insurance agents nationally in years 1999-2007.