Someone turning 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports, according to LongTermCare.gov.
LeRoy Heinbigner, 72, and his wife, Judy, 71, have chosen to remain in their town home. Last year he contacted Home Instead, a local company primarily serving Lancaster County, to provide personal care for Judy and to perform some light housekeeping.
A caregiver now comes in eight hours a day, seven days a week.
“It’s just taken a huge load off my back,” Heinbigner said.
Having someone there gives him a little time to get away, like to the grocery store or out for breakfast with a friend, he said. Some, like Heinbigner, will recognize their needs and seek out services. In other cases family members will make observations that will lead to a search for services. Joyce Kubicek, a social worker in charge of care management for Aging Partners in Lincoln, recommends forming a team of family members and caregivers who can step in to help formulate a plan.
For those who choose to continue to live independently, a case manager with Aging Partners can help find appropriate medical and nonmedical services, Kubicek said.
“It’s got to be a cooperative thing,” she said.
Assessing everyday tasks loved ones can or can’t do on their own (like taking medication and shopping for groceries) along with basic personal tasks (like bathing and dressing), is the first step to finding the right care. Aging Partners uses an assessment called Activities of Daily Living Screening to help determine needs.
Home Instead’s 24/7 services are considered nonmedical and include everything from scheduling appointments, assisting with dressing and bathing, companionship, transportation to appointments, medication reminders and light housekeeping. Some long-term care insurance plans and the Veteran’s Administration will reimburse for specific services, home care consultant Gracia Kremer said.
Each client’s needs are explored extensively during a home visit, she said.
“A lot of times people don’t know what they need,” Kremer said.
Clients are assigned a team of caregivers to provide continuity and familiarity. Ongoing assessments of a client’s behavior and health conditions by care staff and the home care consultants help determine when and if their needs have gone beyond Home Instead’s scope of care. Two certified dementia specialists are available to offer recommendations and training to caregivers to attempt to keep clients at home longer.
“If you have exhausted all of the other resources to stay home, we will help you find resources to get you where you need to go,” Kremer said.
The stay for clients averages about two to three years, but one client has been with Home Instead for eight years, Home Instead office manager Brooke Babcock said. She estimates that about 25 percent of Home Instead’s clients are in independent living situations and 75 percent are still in their own home.
Often family members and neighbors fill in care gaps. According to LongTermCare.gov, about 80 percent of care at home is provided by unpaid caregivers such as a partner, friend, neighbor or family member, averaging 20 hours a week. A 2015 study by AARP and the National Alliance on Caregiving reported that about 43.5 million people in the United States had been an unpaid caregiver in the last 12 months.
Additional resources to aid families are available through Aging Partners’ Personal and Family Services department and the Aging and Disability Resource Center. Resources include listings of community home health care providers, subsidized housing, licensed assisted living facilities and independent senior living communities in Lancaster County, financial assistance available, options for in-home services and how to apply for Medicaid Waiver Services. Aging Partners also provides counseling and long-term care evaluations for persons over 65 who are seeking Medicaid coverage for nursing home placement, based on eligibility.
The Aging and Disability Resource Center offers assistance to those 60 and over statewide in accessing services and support to meet their long-term care needs.
AARP is another resource. Its Planning for Long Term Care guide gives tips for making the home safer, improving chances for a healthy future, paying for long-term care, and creating legal instructions for health care decisions, said Jina Ragland with AARP Nebraska. It also offers an online long-term care calculator, caregiver hotline and other caregiving resources.