By Mary Kate McGrath - November 17, 2020
National Long-Term Care Awareness Month, which takes place in November, is an event to recognize and show support for those giving or receiving long-term healthcare. When someone requires long-term care, responsibilities include meal or eating assistance, help with personal care, and hygiene or bathing, as well as help with other daily tasks. This kind of care can be taxing and expensive, requiring families to make difficult economic decisions, determine the role of family members, or manage other logistics for ensuring a loved one remains well.
National Long-Term Care Month is an opportunity to rally around those requiring or giving care, and appreciate leaders in the care industry who are facilitating access to these resources.
Long-term care is the variety of services designed to meet a person’s healthcare or individual needs over an extended period of time; these services help individuals live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities of their own, according to the National Institute on Aging. While most long-term care is by unpaid family members or friends, it can also be given at a nursing home or community facility, a paid personal aide, or an adult daycare facility.
The most common form of long-term care helps with everyday living, or “daily tasks”, such as eating, bathing, dressing, hygienic upkeep, using the bathroom, or moving around the home. Often people who need long-term care have a serious ongoing health condition, whether these issues arise as the result of an unexpected event, such as heart attack or stroke, or are the gradual result of aging or worsening illness, as per the NIA.
Several factors can determine the necessity of long-term care including age, as risk increases as people get older; gender, as women live longer; marital status, as single people are more likely to require paid attendants; or health and family history, as genetic factors can also correlate with risk.
There are several important statistics to know about long-term care. First, nearly 70% of men or women over the age of 65 will require some kind of long-term care services, and 78% of adults who receive long term care at home rely on family or friends for assistance, as per National Day Calendar. The average amount of time a caregiver spends assisting a family member per week is around 21 hours, and around 90% of family members giving care had to alter their work schedule to care for a loved one. These people work incredibly hard and are often forced to step away from roles, which can be financially taxing on a family.
Home-based care is the most common form of long-term care, allowing people to remain at home and be as independent as possible. While the majority of this care - which includes health, personal, and support services - is done by family members, paid caregivers can also be part of long-term support. These paid home-based caregivers include employees found informally, as well as healthcare professionals such as nurses, home health aides, therapists, or homemakers, who can be hired through healthcare agencies.
In certain states, Medicaid or Medicare will subsidize at-home care, but benefits differ across state lines, including the number of services allotted or hours a personal care assistant will be available.
There are several ways to support long-term care recipients and providers during National Long-Term Care Awareness Month. The first is to use the social media hashtag, #LongTermCareAwarenessMonth as you spread support and appreciation for long term care workers. Leaders in the industry should continue to spread awareness of the financial, emotional, or physical toll long-term care can put on families across the United States. The month is also an opportunity to propose innovative solutions to streamline worker responsibilities and improve the delivery of care.
Healthcare agencies can also use this month to reinvest in supporting healthcare field workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Home aides have continued to provide vital care for the elderly by expanding access to resources, such as providing PPE and other protective measures amid COVID-19, and opening lines of communication between agency officials and workers on the job.
A healthcare safety app can be a vital tool for supporting long-term care workers, engaging directly with remote or traveling employees to provide resources, emergency assistance, and two-way communications. The app, which protects traveling workers with safety timers and routine employee wellness checks, is uniquely positioned to support remote workers, such as those providing at-home care in the community.
Workers can also use the app to enhance response to emergencies - there is a safety timer, which acts as a virtual escort for employees, as well as two-way texting that can be routed by specific departments. With employee-initiated texting, as well as an anonymous two-way tip texting option, care agencies can expect to see an uptick in reports of dangerous incidents, boosting situational awareness.
The app can also be used to facilitate shift-filling, which has become even more vital amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workers have struggled to navigate home-care amid the pandemic, with aides facing arduous conditions and at far-higher risk due to travel between multiple homes, as per the New York Times.
A healthcare app can both help agencies facilitate access to personal protective equipment, especially appropriate masks, which have been in short supply throughout the pandemic. The tool can also ensure that clients receive the healthcare necessary without exacerbating COVID-19 risk - if a worker has any symptoms or isn’t feeling well, the agency can easily fill their shift and mitigate any disruption in-home care.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.