Costs and Considerations for Home Health Care for Aging Relatives in Florida

Gary Barg worked with his mother for most of his 80s. She would travel to the Fort Lauderdale office of his company, Caregiver Media Group.

She had a stroke in July and Barg found himself practicing what he had built his business on for over a quarter of a century – caring for his aging loved ones.

“We had to learn to do the things that we have been teaching and teaching caregivers for 26 years,” he said.

These included partnering with family members, navigating the home health care industry, interviewing agencies and helpers, and discussing the financial obligations that arise when an aging loved one has. need home health care.

That’s a lot, and a lot of people want to stay home as they age – nearly 90 percent according to a poll by the Associated Press and the non-partisan research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

The demand for home care for aging loved ones is increasing as the population ages and COVID-19 has been deadly in nursing homes, leading people to look for ways to age at home if they are. can. Meanwhile, the supply of home health workers is constrained by limited wages and higher wages in other industries.

“I think caregiving makes strong families stronger and challenges difficult families,” said Barg.

Recommendations and technological assistance

Before home health care was needed, Barg recommended bringing in a geriatric care manager to help assess an aging family member. He also highlighted the use of technology to help keep an eye on protection, such as internet-connected devices that an adult can access remotely.

When a family is ready to bring in an assistant, Barg advised making sure the agency does background checks on its employees and provides 24-hour customer service.

Barg, her brother and sister were able to help their mother stay at home after her stroke. Then they decided that closer care in a facility was better for her, making the transition from home care to long-term care.

Pay for care

Heather Smothers’ household in Key West includes her husband, 2-year-old daughter, stepmother and 86-year-old grandfather. He is a fifth generation Conch according to Smothers.

“He loves butterflies and botany, and he loves to plant his garden. It looks like a jungle,” she said.

He receives a home help visit in the morning to help him get his breakfast and his medication. Smothers said it costs around $ 50 an hour. If an assistant goes in the afternoon, the annual cost would be around $ 30,000.

“It’s a bit expensive to have this service, but in the long run, I feel like it’s worth it. And he’s lucky to have the finances available to afford it,” a- she declared.

Smothers said he is now paying out of pocket for the help, but has insurance.

“He ended up exhausting himself,” she said.

Home health insurance “isn’t the most common thing,” according to senior care lawyer Steve Dunn. And it has become much more expensive as people are living longer and services are getting more expensive.

“Premiums have actually skyrocketed over the past few years because the loss experience is far superior to what insurance companies anticipated when they first started underwriting policies. The premiums are therefore increasing at the moment, ”he said.

Dunn turned his professional legal career towards elder care after the personal experience of caring for his father over ten years ago. Dunn said he sued his father’s home health insurance company after dismissing a claim. He eventually won his case and decided to devote his legal practice almost exclusively to senior care insurance.

Her father was a World War II veteran who was the youngest in a family of eight children. Dunn said he used the GI Bill to go to college and law school.

“He got out of poverty and helped lift the rest of his family out of poverty. He was an amazing and amazing person, and I’m in a long-term care facility. [work], and all the things I do now, because of my dad. I gave it all the credit, ”Dunn said.

Most home health care is paid for by Medicaid, the federal government’s health care program. And the program sets maximum fees for assistants. In 2021The maximum reimbursed rate for an unqualified home aide visit to Florida is $ 17.46 per hour, according to a schedule released by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Supply-demand imbalance

There is an explosive demand for the job. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of home help jobs jumped by 60%.

However, during the same decade, the average hourly wage of workers increased by less than 2%. In 2020, home health aides in Florida were making an average of 22 cents more per hour than they were making 10 years earlier.

“Unlike other industries, in the long-term care industry, the usual rules about supply and demand and the relationship to wages don’t necessarily apply,” said Stephen McCall, data analyst and policies at PHI. “While a place like McDonald’s may adjust prices or dip into profits to increase their wages in a tight labor market, home care providers have to go to the Legislature every year.”

The majority of home care workers are women. About half are black or Hispanic. And more than half are over 45 themselves.

Low wages, competitive wages in other industries, sometimes harsh working conditions, and an aging home health care workforce will continue to put pressure on the imbalance between labor demand and labor demand. supply of employees.

“By 2035, we should have what amounts to a catastrophic shortage of [registered nurses]said Kyle Simon, director of government affairs for the Home Care Association of Florida, a trade group representing about a third of the state’s licensed home health care agencies. be more overrated. ”

Copyright 2021 WLRN 91.3 FM

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