by By Drs. Robert Schreiber & Gerry Gleich, Fallon Health
November 14, 2017
People can find themselves in a caregiver role after a sudden change or a gradual decline in their loved one’s health, whether physical or cognitive.
Either way, caregiving is a demanding role:
Fallon Health is a Massachusetts-based health plan with a special expertise in managing care for older adults. We have seen the critical role family caregivers can and do play in supporting the health and well-being of older adults. We have also seen the strain that caregiving can put on entire families.
In our experience, the key is for health care organizations to engage proactively and systematically with family caregivers—a process that can help them manage stress, plan for care, balance work with caregiving, and make clear-headed decisions affecting the lives of both themselves and those who receive their care.
We have senior care plans with care teams that work directly with caregivers and health care providers to help care recipients live independently and safely in their homes and communities—or “age in place.” These programs include Summit ElderCare®, the only Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) operated by a health plan and NaviCare®, a Senior Care Options and Special Needs Plan (SNP).
The plans follow a similar approach of providing comprehensive, integrated, and patient-centered medical care and social supports designed to support independent living.
Studies show that 80 percent of good health is related to behavioral, emotional, financial, educational, and other non-clinical issues.
An important part of this approach is covering non-traditional benefits such as transportation to medical appointments, social activities, and home visits. In addition to supporting the goal of independence, these non-traditional benefits provide a respite for family caregivers who would otherwise have to perform these tasks themselves.
Fallon’s Caregiver Connection blog is another way we integrate our support for caregivers. The blog provides information from both health care professionals and other family caregivers on a wide range of topics related to senior care. We also participate in policy discussions on caregiving and older adult issues—and sometimes we start the conversation ourselves. We recently held a symposium on family caregiving and plan to host another in 2018.
Our partnerships with family caregivers have produced high satisfaction rates among our members and their families. With organized support, family caregivers can have peace of mind, help fulfill the desire of most older adults to live independently, and focus more of their time and energy on enjoying their loved ones as they age. Family caregivers play an invaluable role in society. They need and deserve our support.
Dr. Robert Schreiber is vice president and medical director at Fallon Health and Dr. Gerry Gleich is medical director at Fallon Health’s NaviCare Clinical Programs.