At-home deaths are an increasing trend, up almost 30% since 2000. One quarter of Americans now die at home, which at first blush sounds positive. It's surrounded by ideas of comfort, family, and familiar surroundings. Unfortunately, this spike in at-home deaths is not driven by idyllic reasons. It comes down to money. Dying at home costs less. But what many don't take into account is the toll it takes on the lives and health of family caregivers.
In an attempt to trim costs, Medicare homed in on the dying, because, after all, they represent 30% of Medicare's annual budget spend. At-home hospice care increased significantly after Congress passed the 1983 hospice benefit, but there is a string attached--to qualify for reimbursement, the patient may need a full-time primary caregiver, and this "job" often falls to unpaid family members. What's the impact? Caregiver syndrome, an ailment marked by higher rates of chronic disease, stress, depression, social isolation, and financial troubles. Many of these caregivers end up dying of stress-related disorders before the patient dies. One family caregiver described the experience as "...a gut-wrenching, soul-draining nightmare that no amount of therapy will ever be able to rectify."
And what is this saving Medicare? The Rand Corp. estimates that family caregivers provide $500 billion in unpaid services.
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Source: Huffington Post