(BPT) - According to a recent report from AARP, 12 million older Americans will need long-term care by 2020, and most will get this care from a loved one at home. In South Carolina, the number of residents age 85 and older is expected to grow more than 100 percent in the next 15 years, a situation putting them at greater risk for chronic illnesses and in need of long-term services and supports (LTSS). Medicaid plays a major role in financing these services, and its role will grow as the population ages.
The older population in need of LTSS often turns to family and friends to take on caregiving responsibility, in large part due to the costs involved. In fact, a report from the South Carolina Office of Aging revealed more than 770,000 caregivers in the state provide 737 million hours of free services to their loved ones each year. This number is only going to get bigger as the state’s baby boomers age into disabilities that require the help of a caregiver.
While LTSS is important for the general aging population, it is especially critical for low-income seniors, many of whom receive coverage from Medicaid and rely on family for gaps in care. With limited financial resources, both the patient and the caregiver may need assistance that goes beyond healthcare.
Caregivers may also need relief from their caregiving duties. Research shows that caregivers exhibit higher levels of depression and suffer from higher stress levels than their non-caregiving peers. Women, in particular, fare worse than their male caregiving counterparts, showing higher levels of depression and less attention to their own health needs, such as getting their yearly mammograms.
“Far too often, caregivers put their own health on hold to care for their loved ones,” said Dr. Robert London, senior medical director, WellCare of South Carolina, a provider of Medicaid managed care in the state. “However, there are programs and resources available that can help to keep those in need in their homes, while providing relief for their caregivers.”
Managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS) refers to the delivery of LTSS through Medicaid managed care programs. MLTSS provides opportunities for beneficiaries to receive home- and community-based care, while reducing the high costs associated with institutional-based care. WellCare projects that South Carolina could save more than $270 million in state funds across four years upon the implementation of MLTSS due to fewer nursing home placements, lengthy hospital stays and emergency room visits.
These programs also offer connections to a range of services that can help both the patient and the caregiver, from transportation assistance and food pantries to finding help for respite care to relieve the caregiver temporarily.
If you or a loved one needs assistance with caregiving, contact WellCare’s Community Connections Help Line at (866) 775-2192 to be connected with local support resources. Staff is available Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time).