A 2015 AARP study on senior caregiving in the state of Tennessee showed that 94% of voters over the age of 45 said that it was important to have services that allow people to stay in their own homes as long as possible. 80% of the same respondents said that family caregivers need more resources to help care for aging family members. Over 60% of Tennessee registered voters over the age of 45 are currently, or have provided senior care for a loved one due to illness, fragility, age, physical, or mental disabilities. These strong statistics prove the need for the best options that allow our aging population to live out their golden years in the comfort of their homes.
Senior caregiving rates can vary by as much as 50%, even in the same area, so it pays to shop around for reasonable rates, without compromising quality care.
Most in-home caregivers charge by the hour, but there are some that bill on a flat-rate basis. There is a difference in home care duties. The rates will reflect the level of care the senior needs. Rates will be slightly higher for skilled care services such as home health aides and Alzheimer’s care. Across the nation, hourly rates for senior caregivers range between $18 and $26 per hour. Tennessee fairs about average, ranking as the 36th most affordable caregiving state. Expect to pay about $18 per hour, on average.
Skilled home health caregivers can only be hired through an agency. It’s possible to find home care aides through agencies as well. If the costs of hiring a caregiver through an agency are prohibitive, it’s possible to hire an independent caregiver, where you can expect to pay about 20%-30% less than what agencies offer. When choosing an independent caregiver, take caution. Independent caregivers may not be insured and it may be challenging to get a background check on them. If the caregiver is not able to show up for work, you’ll be left scrambling to find a replacement.
The more skilled the caregiver is, the more expensive the care will be. It’s a good idea to spend some time considering the type of help you need before searching for the perfect in-home care provider. It’s helpful to make a list of the duties that are needed and figure out how those duties can be scheduled so that the aide is needed for the shortest time possible. When appropriate, it’s possible to start with a home care aide and change to a home health aide if the senior’s needs increase, as a budget-saving strategy.
There is an important distinction between the duties of a home care aide and a home health aide. Home care aides provide personal care, which refers to duties most people do for themselves. Personal care includes bathing, dressing, house cleaning, cooking, transportation, and companionship.
Home health aides have training in a low level of nursing care. In addition to providing personal care services, they can also take a senior’s pulse, temperature, and respiration. They also provide assistance with medication management, braces, ventilators, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment. Home health aides may also be called nurse aides, nursing assistants, certified nursing assistants, and geriatric aides.
Most seniors have Medicaid and/or Medicare benefits and many people mistakenly believe that the Medicaid and Medicare programs cover just about everything, but that is a myth. Unfortunately, neither program covers home care, or personal care, at all. Home health care falls under the category of being “medically necessary,” so Medicare will cover home health care aide services, but seniors and the family members who care for them should be aware that Medicare has notable restrictions regarding in-home care.
Medicare only covers in-home care services for seniors who are homebound. This means that the senior must be unable to leave his or her home without the assistance of a personal assistant or medical equipment, such as a wheelchair. There is one other exception—seniors whose health will worsen by leaving the home also qualify for in-home caregiving services through Medicare. For seniors who need in-home health care services, Medicare will pay for the in-home health care, but not the in-home personal care. For example, Medicare will pay for services that are brief and procedural in nature, like taking blood pressure and body temperature. Medicare helps fund some of the costs, but the program cannot be depended upon to fully fund all of the services that a senior needs.
Tennessee family members may be able to get some services paid for by contacting the National Family Caregiver Support Program.
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