ANNOUNCER: When a frail or chronically ill loved one can no longer care for themselves, the issue confronting families is, what to do about providing care from home.
LARRY SOSNOW: It's very important that an individual identify themselves and recognize that they have a responsibility to care for an individual and take the leadership. And the family member that decides to be the primary caregiver has certain responsibilities that they must carry out.
ANNOUNCER: Making the decision to care for a loved one at home should not be taken lightly and it is not for everyone. It requires patience, planning and practice.
LARRY SOSNOW: The most successful caregiver is one who has the time, who lives close and who has the emotional relationship to sustain the effort that's required. Usually, it's somebody who has an attitude that's very positive and who really is willing to commit to the effort, who's motivated.
ANNOUNCER: What goes into a decision for caring for a loved one at home?
LARRY SOSNOW: National studies have shown that 83 percent of Americans want to remain at home, as opposed to going to an assisted living facility or a independent living facility or to a nursing home. But the decision to stay at home really is based upon what the functional status of the parent or the person to be cared for, how that person will manage to be managed at home.
ANNOUNCER: First, the environment needs to be conducive for caring for someone at home.
LARRY SOSNOW: If home care is appropriate, a professional environmental assessment is usually prepared by a nurse or a social worker to see whether the home has the adaptive environment that can accommodate someone who is ill.
ANNOUNCER: And then there are the financial concerns. That's where you call on the experts in long-term care planning.
LARRY SOSNOW: What an outside advisor would be either an attorney; a professional care manager, which is usually a social worker or a nurse by training; or someone that is experienced in financial and estate planning.
We've found, from our experience, that people are least prepared for the financial stress. That most people expect Medicare to cover elder care or long-term care. No, Medicare does not. Medicare is only for acute care, almost post-hospital stays. Personal care or elder care is really more custodial care and it's not covered by any insurance, except long-term care insurance, which very few people have.
ANNOUNCER: Everyone needs a different level of care, but all need the basics.
LARRY SOSNOW: One is to make sure that the physician's plan of care is followed. If that's not followed, generally, that'll trigger emergency problems that need or bring upon onsets of a deteriorating medical condition. So you must, one, monitor their nutrition, medication. Then the exercise; that is, the family member is not getting the proper exercise. That also would create a deteriorating condition. The fourth part of that is socialization. That if that family member is not being socialized, you're going to create opportunities for depression and anxiety, which will further trigger a decline in the individual.
ANNOUNCER: It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude and outside support to care for someone at home.
LARRY SOSNOW: Family members really underestimate the level of effort to maintain proper care.
We have seen many instances of the caregiver's own family suffering, the children being neglected, either schoolwork not being done or performance at the job suffering, promotions being not made.
ANNOUNCER: But caregivers don't have to do it alone.
LARRY SOSNOW: Well, your choices are several. One is use family caregivers. Find somebody in the family. Is there a niece, nephew, a cousin that can do it, can volunteer or can be paid? Second, find people in the community, community agencies, such as your faith-based programs.
And the third choice would be just to provide care through professionals, where it's paid care. And you could arrange care in an Ã la carte fashion, from just a few hours of respite care a week that may be useful to full-time, 7/24 care.
ANNOUNCER: Still caring for a loved-one at home can be a wonderfully rewarding experience
LARRY SOSNOW: It's a rich experience. You're sharing memories, you're sharing good times together, and, even though you're going through a difficult period, for most people, it's a rich experience.