By Maureen Hewitt
$8,728 a year. No vacations. No retirement
savings. 23 hours a week and up.
This is the not-so-secret code of the long-distance
- $8,728 is the average annual out-of-pocket
- 47% stopped taking vacations to make up for
caregiving costs and a lack of extra time;
- 35% stopped saving for retirement; and
- 23 hours up to 41 hours a week are spent on
providing care, depending on income.
Being a long-distance caregiver is incredibly
stressful and frustrating. It’s difficult
locating and vetting caregivers from a distance and
National Institute on Aging says there are
approximately 7 million people in the United
States trying to carry out this daunting task.
But there is help available.
Imagine working with a single care coordinator who,
on your behalf, scrutinizes healthcare providers,
offers assistance with financial questions, manages
the care delivered by different physicians and other
healthcare specialists, and generally takes on all
tasks associated with providing care.
This care coordinator removes the burden from the
family caregiver and puts it squarely on the care
coordination provider. And with good reason.
Organizations with expertise for providing care
coordination services have the wherewithal and
contacts within the industry to ensure a loved one’s
care is delivered with the highest standards.
Care coordination organizations report to the family
caregiver on all aspects of the loved one’s care,
including medical and physical condition, outside
activities and more. Essentially, every aspect of
care and activity is monitored and reported to the
Is Care Coordination Necessary?
Is care coordination the most important step to take
when it comes to protecting and improving the health
of a loved one? I believe it is because care
coordination is the foundation of every other choice
you make when helping an aging loved one. No matter
who helps you coordinate care, researchers and the
sheer number of care choices bears this out: you and
your loved one will benefit from help.
For aging adults to maintain a level of
independence, a number of resources should be put in
place to keep them safe and healthy. Choosing the
right ones is often difficult. Finding and securing
services needed to care for aging adults is
complicated and time-consuming. There are many
choices to make: medical care, personal care,
transportation, mental health counseling and much
more. Then there are basic needs: utilities and
food. All are important. Depending on the mental and
physical condition of your loved one, all or some
will be necessary.
A recent study by the Rand Corporation says elderly
“patients with chronic illnesses often face care
that is poorly coordinated. They may see many
different health care providers working in multiple
clinical locations, and poor communication between
provider and patient is common. These factors can
lead to higher use of health services and poorer
Choosing the Right Care Coordination Organization
Selecting a care coordination or caregiving service
for a loved one is a difficult task for everyone
involved. The decision will be time-consuming,
emotionally-charged and very personal.
No matter the type of service chosen, the
organization should be able to help you navigate the
medical and financial sides of care coordination.
There are many choices to make. Will your loved one
- medical care,
- personal care,
- rehabilitation services;
- meals; and/or
- mental health counseling?
There are local services—many cities have offices
on aging with resources—that can help narrow your
focus, and find a service to benefit you and your
loved one. Alternatively, family caregivers often
find a happy medium by working directly with an
organization that provides consultative care
coordination services. Other caregivers are more
comfortable with community organizations, like local
chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association. Yet another
option may be the loved one’s own health insurance
With some help, your burden can be eased while your
loved one benefits from improved health and more
efficient, less costly care.
While care coordination frequently reduces cost
through better, more efficient use of health
services, it also improves the quality of life for
both the caregiver and their loved one, which leads
to better health outcomes. Care coordination, Rand
confirms, saves money and reduces hospitalizations.
I don’t know anyone who wants to spend more time in
The care coordination organization and the caregiver
are a team. Using the knowledge of the organization
and the caregiver, the team makes decisions
concerning the health and well-being of the loved
one with the goal of improved health outcomes for
the loved one, lower overall costs and far less
stress for the caregiver.
Maureen Hewitt is President and Chief
Executive Officer at InnovAge, which is based in
Denver. With more than 20 years of leadership at
for-profit and non-profit health care
organizations, Hewitt leads InnovAge, which
provides essential services and support for
aging adults in California, Colorado and New
Mexico. Hewitt has many years of experience
leading skilled nursing/sub-acute care
facilities, and with acute care and