The statistics are mind-boggling: A private room in a nursing home costs an average of $92,000 per year. A shared room is only about $10,000 per year less — and the average nursing home stay is just over 800 days, basically about three years.
Many people say that they would rather do anything than live out their final days in a nursing home, but the fact is that more than half of adults over age 65 will need some type of long-term care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s not good news for most, who simply cannot afford the care they need. In fact, by many accounts, long-term care in America is facing a major crisis in the coming years.
Assessing the Issue
If you were to ask most people facing retirement age about their plans for their Golden Years, most will tell you that they plan to stay in their homes as long as possible, which most consider to be until they die. When pressed about their plans should their health fail, many say that they plan to rely on Medicare or their savings to cover the costs of their care.
However, the problem is that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care like assisted living facilities or nursing homes unless it’s for rehabilitation after a hospital stay — and few individuals have enough money saved to cover the entire bill. Some individuals can qualify for Medicaid benefits, which will cover nursing home costs at approved facilities, which may not be the patient’s first choice of nursing home. Not to mention, the qualifications for Medicaid are strict and often require beneficiaries to spend their own money and/or liquidate assets in order to qualify. In many cases, this means that one spouse is left destitute to get care for the other.
One solution that’s gained traction in recent years is long-term care insurance, which ostensibly pays for some or all the beneficiary’s long-term care needs. However, in recent years premiums for these policies have skyrocketed by as much as 90 percent, with some policies costing upwards of $5,000 per year or more and rising. This presents a financial burden to many individuals who are still trying to save for retirement and cover household bills. And while LTC insurance does ease some of the financial blow of long term care, it doesn’t always cover the entire cost, and some beneficiaries have reported issues getting their bills paid.
As our population ages, and millions of people face the prospect of needing long term care, the U.S. is decidedly on the brink of a crisis. The question is, then, how to fix it? While there are many possible solutions, one type of care keeps coming to the forefront of the conversation: home health care.
Why Home Health Care Could Be the Answer
According to AARP, the desire to age in place is an almost universal one. However, with so many older people facing multiple chronic conditions, the need for help is also becoming a near universal one as well. In some cases, family members are able to provide the care that their loved ones need; there are those who only need occasional assistance with errands and chores, or help with daily tasks like meals or dressing.
However, there are many who need more assistance — help that quickly exhausts family members, who are often balancing work and family responsibilities. That’s where home health care comes in. Hiring professionals to come into the home and provide necessary medical services and assistance can allow an individual to remain at home, and often costs a fraction of nursing home care, while also being more personalized. Of course, it’s not perfect, as Medicare will only pay for a limited amount of home health care for a short time and under specific circumstances, and doesn’t cover non-medical but essential services such as meal preparation. Because LTC insurance is so expensive, and not everyone has it, many people will pay out of pocket for home health services, quickly exhausting their savings. Medicaid will cover some home health services as well, but individual states determine the rules.
Still, the simple fact that home health costs so much less than nursing home care, and thanks to advanced home health software that many home health agencies use, home health care is quality care. Not only are patients generally happier and more relaxed in their homes, but home health services are also proven to reduce hospital readmissions and improve patient outcomes. Government leaders are also beginning to recognize the value of home health, and changing policies to increase access to services and improve insurance coverage.
Changing the face of long-term care in the U.S. is going to take a great deal of creative thinking and hard work, but home health care will undoubtedly be a part of the equation moving forward — if not the centerpiece of most solutions.
If you’re a home health agency looking to provide long-term care for aging patients, learn more about how our home health software can help streamline your agency functions and help you be a leader in home health for the coming decades.