On January 29, 2006, Lee Woodruff was in Disneyworld with her four children when she got a call that changed her life. Lee’s husband, Bob Woodruff, had been hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq where he was covering the war as a journalist for ABC. Bob received a life-saving surgery to remove part of his skull, but for the next 35 days, Bob lay in a medically induced coma. Although his body healed, the question was whether or not his brain would. During this time period, Woodruff forced herself to tour an acute care nursing home, knowing that her husband might not awake from his coma. Bob awoke the next day.
Suddenly, Woodruff became a full-time caregiver to her husband. Dealing with a crisis such as this—or even suddenly needing to care for an elderly parent—requires a huge amount of emotional engagement that only a family member can provide. So although some may opt for professional care in such situations, it’s clear that a close family member will still be dedicating their time and focus towards the elderly, disabled or injured person.
As families begin dealing with the consequences of a sudden illness or disability in their family, the following issues often come into view:
1. Deciding how much to be involved
Some may think that it’s impossible to find flexible at-home care that allows families to take part in caring for their loved one, but this isn’t the case. Many types of care exist that offer anything from just hygiene help all the way up to 24/7 care. But even when a family member is able to assume the bulk of full-time care, everyone needs a break at times, so respite care should never be overlooked in order to avoid caregiver burnout.
Even if you have a full-time job, it’s only natural that you should want to play a large role in the care of your parent or loved one. Perhaps you feel obliged to become a caregiver because your loved one is refusing professional care. This can be a difficult decision since few people are able to quit their jobs without serious financial consequences, not to mention emotional consequences as well. Deciding how much you can handle in this new realm of responsibility is often tied to the types of care available.
2. Learning about different types of care
From acute care facilities to assisted living centers and in-home assistance, myriad types of care exist to aid people with disabilities or the elderly. Regardless of the cause of their need, people often find it difficult to choose the type of care that is best for them. Your doctor should help you understand the types of care you or your loved one should receive, which is always a good starting point. Of course, insurance coverage and convenience of the care comes into play as well. After all these factors are considered, most people usually find that the final decision comes down to the cost of care.
3. Finding the right care at an affordable price
For many Americans, the price of care for themselves or loved ones offers the biggest obstacle. Getting help and finding the right care center or at-home provider is one thing, but covering the cost is usually quite another.
According to Genworth's 2019 Cost of Care Survey, the national median daily rate for home health care is $141 per day. In contrast, the Genworth study reported that the national median cost of a one-bedroom residence in an assisted living community is $280 per day. No matter how you look at it, care is a large financial burden for anyone, particularly if they or their caregiver falls into the in-between category—with income to high to qualify for Medicaid and other allowances, but income to low to cover such a high cost out of pocket. If you or a loved one is looking for financial aid to cover the cost of care, see if a Caregiver Grant from Live Care Foundation can help lift the burden.
Ms. Harris is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys reading, triathlons, and baking.