Finally, a Vision for Care Referrals That Will Improve Outcomes

Picture this: you’re one of millions of Americans who needs care at home either because of aging, dementia, recovery from surgery or other disabilities.  You’ve got a family—and often an unpaid caregiver who helps with your care.  They’re part of an elaborate team of caregivers, physicians, therapists and non-medical assistance.  I’ve lived this first-hand as I’ve cared for my mother, and I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of families in the same situation.

Insurance companies and other employee benefit programs often deliver these care recommendations.  They do the best they can considering maintaining these programs—and the underlying data—is not their primary business.  Unfortunately, they struggle to extend these programs across the whole company so that each member-facing group can leverage the same data to provide the best care referrals to their members. I’ve just assumed it was one of those “not-yet-solvable” situations, as healthcare technology is always a bit slower than other industries.  So we did the best we could and used what was not an ideal support system.

The Future of Care Referral Programs

I think I finally found a vision for the future.

I ran into a white paper from SNAPforSeniors that really caught my eye.  If SNAP can deliver on this vision—and if insurance companies, call centers and other providers have the vision and foresight to adopt it—it will dramatically change the outcomes of care coordination as part of the age in place movement.  More important, it will give families like mine the peace of mind that we are getting referred to the best matched providers for our care.

I know this vision may not concern some of you, but I highly recommend you check it out.  These types of ideas are the ones that are going to make the biggest impact. If you think your family would benefit from your insurer adopting programs like this, you should let them know.

Here’s the link to the paper – http://bit.ly/aPPsWU.

Your Senior Health Care Bill: $260,000!

I have always been a big fan of Howard Gleckman, author of Caring for Our Parents.  In fact, he was the very first person I interviewed for my Leaders in Elder Care series.  If you aren’t familiar with Howard’s blog, you’re really missing out on a complete play-by-play of how the health care debate is impacting the cost of senior care.

This morning, he shared some startling statistics about paying for elder care that I have quoted below.  In this article, Howard has links to some fascinating studies about the out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and it is shocking.  It is mind-boggling to me how financing elder care will be solved as we move forward. He wrote:

A typical couple would have to save nearly $200,000 to pay for their out-of-pocket medical costs from the time they are 65 until they die, according to an important new study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Add in nursing home costs, and they are likely to need $260,000.

But that’s only part of the story. About 5 percent of 65-year-old couples will face catastrophic medical and long-term care costs exceeding $570,000, according to researchers Anthony Webb and Natalia Zhivan.They estimate those expenses would have exhausted the total financial assets of 85 percent of all retirees even at the peak of the stock market in 2007.

As someone who has first-hand experience with out-of-pocket expenses and my Mother’s care, I was still so stunned by these numbers, that I could not write a conclusion to this article.  What do you say?

Obviously, I encourage you to check out Howard’s writing.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts about these big numbers?

Photo: bubble dumpster

Assisted Living Saved My Mom in Oregon

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Oregon to speak at three assisted living communities across the state.  I posted some pictures of the event on the Inside Elder Care Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/eldercare.  Brookdale brought me up from California to visit three communities—all from distinct areas within Oregon.  They were:

  • Albany – small towns set in an agricultural area just southeast of Portland
  • McMinnville – right in the center of Oregon wine country
  • Gresham – at the base of Mount Hood (yes, I was cold)

At each community, I gave a talk entitled Assisted Living Saved My Mom—a presentation communities ask me to give that provides an insider’s view about how to determine which assisted living community is best for your family.  Assisted Living Saved My Mom shares many techniques that uncover information you would never get from just speaking to an admissions director.  Brookdale provided a copy of my book to each who attended—something appreciated by the attendees.  Based on the large amount of feedback I received from attending families and people in the industry, the message really hit home and benefited many people.

Despite the obvious differences in the locations of each of these communities, I found a few things in common:

  • Warm and friendly: nearly every person I met—from the staff to the residents—were very welcoming and warm.
  • Pride: there is a strong sense of pride in the residents that carried over to their feeling that it was their responsibility to make new residents comfortable.
  • Camaraderie: I got the feeling that the residents genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. You could tell because they all knew each other’s little quirks and habits—something they found amusing.

One thing that came up repeatedly was the concern over “How do I pay for this stuff?” Many people were surprised there were other payment options beside just selling their house and paying cash.

When I wrote the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living, I interviewed nearly 200 families to ask them about the concerns related to assisted living and elder care.  The issue of paying for elder care came up as a primary concern from almost three-quarters of those families.

The financial issues are the elephant in the room.  Most people don’t know how to solve them or even where to start, because there is no holistic guide for families on how to navigate these issues.  I am a month or two away from releasing my second book that gets into these answers—the feedback from those that have seen it has been really positive.  Stay tuned.