Many times it’s the hard-working people behind the scenes who are the unsung heroes.
At WellCare, we applaud the starring role caregivers play in the health and well-being of our members and our local communities.
That’s why during this National Family Caregiver’s Month, we’re recognizing the millions of compassionate individuals who help those in need.
Today, Americans are living longer, yet the time of life they remain healthy and independent has not kept pace. Statistics reveal 70% of people age 65 or older will require long-term care at some point in their lives, and according to The Family Resource Network, there are more than 60 million family caregivers across the country providing 24/7 care to a loved one who is aging, has a disability or lives with a chronic condition.
Research from WellCare’s Community Connections program shows seniors who require caregiver support often have one or more chronic health conditions and require additional assistance to manage them. According to data from WellCare’s Community Connections program, the overwhelming majority (95%) of caregivers who called the Community Connections Help Line (CCHL) – a national, peer-based call center open to the general public that provides support in removing social barriers – sought referrals for support around their chronic conditions, including hypertension (66%), diabetes (42%), Alzheimer’s disease (38%), coronary artery disease (38%), depression (38%) and/or obesity (27%).
Caregivers also need support
While caring for another human being can be a rewarding experience, it can also take a toll – physically, mentally and financially.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports nationally, almost half of caregivers, especially those who believe they did not have a choice in taking on this important role for their loved ones, report high levels of emotional stress. It can also lead to declines in physical health, with nearly 1 in 6 reporting their health is in poor or fair condition since they became caregivers. Women, in particular, fare worse than their male caregiving counterparts, showing higher levels of depression and less attention to their own health needs, such as getting their yearly mammograms.
And these figures do not include the many individuals who provide care for someone and do not self-identify as a caregiver due to culture or other perceptions around taking care of those in need.
The overwhelming responsibilities associated with caregiving lead many caregivers not only to seek additional support and assistance from their friends and family members, but also from local community-based organizations.
WellCare invests in caregiver services
WellCare works with many organizations across the country to support caregivers.
In New Jersey for example, we have invested nearly $30,000 in caregiver and respite care programs. WellCare has developed Community Connections Councils that work with stakeholders across the state to create caregiver support groups that promote programs and services for unpaid family caregivers in New Jersey. Since 2015, these groups have served as a key resource for caregivers, providing information on local services and resources.
We have also partnered with groups like Care2Caregivers, a New Jersey peer-based caregiver support line that provides caregivers with counseling, health education, disease management and referrals to local community-based agencies for support and assistance. Care2Caregivers averages 10,000 calls annually from caregivers and provides 16,000 referrals to local resources. Many of the requests for ongoing peer support from other caregivers or counseling services as a result of feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving.
In Florida, Staywell Health Plan, a WellCare company serving Medicaid members, is hosting caregiver summits across the state to bring together community partners to discuss the role of caregiving, share resources to address caregiver needs, and identify best practices for accessing services to reduce caregiver stress and burnout. To date, summits have been held in Jacksonville, Tampa and upcoming in Miami on Nov. 15.
Without support and services for caregivers to address their mental and physical health, the health of those they care for can diminish.
At WellCare, we want to thank our nation’s family caregivers for their service, not just this month, but all year long. The work you do makes a real difference.