Healthcare costs would skyrocket and more seniors would be living in some form of long-term care communities if not for a host of baby boomer caregivers managing their elderly parents’ health, suggests a recent Caring.com survey.
Boomer caregivers are “crucial allies” in managing senior health and keeping healthcare costs down, researchers found.
Nearly three-quarters of boomer caregivers surveyed (73%) are attending all or nearly all of the doctor appointments for their elderly loved ones, while 83% conduct online research about their loved one’s health condition and possible treatments both before and after medical appointments. Nearly two-thirds of boomer caregivers are managing the care of someone who needs a lot of help managing medications and treatments, with an additional 28% reporting that their loved one “needs some help” with medication and treatment tasks.
“Nowadays in medicine, we really expect patients to do a lot for themselves when it comes to chronic care, but that can be really hard when people get older and sicker, unless they have a caregiver involved,” said Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a board-certified geriatrician and senior medical editor for Caring.com.
When patients follow doctors’ orders for their medication and treatment, it can greatly reduce total healthcare costs, studies have shown. The annual costs of patients in the U.S. who don’t follow their medication prescriptions approaches an estimated $290 billion, according to the New England Healthcare Institute. But those who do follow their doctor’s directions for medications can save the healthcare system as much as $7,800 per patient, each year, according to research published on HealthAffairs.org.
With more than 40 million seniors currently enrolled in Medicare, says Caring.com, there’s “potential for caregivers’ active role in medication management to save the government as much as $100 billion annually.”
More than half of boomer caregivers who are actively assisted seniors with their medications, at 57%, are filling initial prescriptions, while 61% are handling refills and 55% are tracking medications to make sure the seniors don’t miss any doses. Half are giving pills, injections, or treatments, and half are also buying over-the-counter medications and personal health products for the senior they’re caring for.
“With physicians on average now spending less than 20 minutes with each patient per visit, and millions of seniors unable or unwilling to properly manage their own health, boomer caregivers play a vital role in driving the best senior healthcare outcomes,” said Andy Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Caring.com, in a statement.
Written by Alyssa Gerace