The market for potential assisted living or skilled nursing facility residents is being depleted by family caregivers who are taking on more and more senior care responsibilities, including medical and nursing tasks once only provided in hospitals, according to a new AARP report.
The level of care that non-professional caregivers are providing has grown increasingly complex to include services that are commonly found not just in assisted living communities but also in nursing homes. Almost half of family caregivers (46%) performed medical/nursing tasks for care recipients with multiple chronic physical and cognitive conditions, the AARP Public Policy Institute and United Hospital Fund survey revealed.
“Those who provided these tasks and reported they had training were more likely to say they were able to help their family member avoid nursing home placement,” says the AARP report.
Tasks can include medication management, helping with assistive mobility devices, preparing food for special diets, providing wound care, using monitors, managing incontinence, and operating specialized medical equipment, along with assistance with activities of daily living.
However, more than half of those who performed five or more medical/nursing tasks reported feeling down, depressed, or hopeless in the last two weeks, says AARP, suggesting that taking on these responsibilities may be beyond what many nonprofessional senior caregivers are capable of on a sustainable basis.
“The family caregivers in our survey reported that their chronically ill family members were in and out of hospitals and emergency departments. Despite frequent encounters with the acute care system, family caregivers were not prepared for the medical and nursing tasks they were expected to provide at home,” said Carol Levine, Director of Families and Health Care Project for United Hospital Fund, in a statement.
Healthcare provider organizations, including rehab centers and nursing homes, need to support healthcare professionals in their efforts by providing adequate resources and strong leadership, AARP recommends.
“Every provider should have clear expectations, protocols, and support for clinicians who interact with family caregivers, especially caregivers who are taking on complex medical/nursing tasks. Payment policies should be structured to make this happen,” says the report.