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ARTICLE 57 Percent of Family Caregivers Provide Financial Support to Loved Ones Despite Limited Resources, According to Survey


BALTIMORE (Nov. 21, 2012) – Seventy-five percent of people caring for Medicare beneficiaries with complex health care needs have an annual income of less than $25,000, yet a majority provide financial support to their loved one, according to a new survey by Care Improvement Plus and the National Family Caregivers Association. Financial worries, diabetes care and care coordination are among the greatest challenges facing "higher-burden" caregivers – those responsible for a wider range of activities associated with their loved ones care over a prolonged period of time.

The survey, A Picture of Higher-Burden Caregiving, focuses on people caring for Medicare beneficiaries with complex health care needs, and underscores the growing challenges caregivers face as the nation's Medicare population grows.

300 caregivers of individuals enrolled in Care Improvement Plus' Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan across five states (Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas) participated in the survey. The survey results revealed that individuals caring for Medicare beneficiaries with complex health care needs fall under this emerging category of higher-burden caregivers:

  • 70 percent of caregivers surveyed serve as the sole or primary caregiver for their loved one.
  • 66 percent have been caring for their loved one for five years or more.
  • Nearly three in four caregivers provide support with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) such as transportation, nutritional or physical support, and coordination of care.
  • More than half (56 percent) of caregivers live at the same residence.
  • 94 percent live within 25 miles of their loved one.

"This survey affirms that people who are caring for chronically ill and underserved Medicare beneficiaries are taking on many aspects of their loved one's care and often face significant challenges," said Rhonda Randall, D.O., chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. "With baby boomers aging into Medicare, the number of beneficiaries with chronic conditions is increasing rapidly – and with it a growing demand for solutions that meet the needs of their family caregivers."

Financial Concerns Weigh Heavily among Higher-Burdened Caregivers

Among people caring for Medicare beneficiaries with complex health care needs, financial issues are highly rated concerns. Specific financial needs and challenges faced by caregivers responding to the survey include:

  • 75 percent have an annual income of less than $25,000 yet a majority (57 percent) provide financial support to their loved one.
  • 77 percent of caregivers are concerned with meeting monthly personal financial needs, and 70 percent are concerned with the cost of caring for their loved one.
  • Two-thirds of caregivers surveyed are concerned about having adequate insurance coverage for their personal health care needs.
  • The affordability of health care services was the top health care issue among surveyed caregivers.

Select Chronic Conditions Drive Higher Need for Support

The majority of caregivers surveyed (70 percent) provide care for Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes. Among the survey population, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and mental illnesses drive a higher need for caregiver involvement compared with other chronic conditions such as arthritis and physical disabilities. In addition, chronic conditions and concern over personal health are prevalent among survey respondents. Specific findings include:

  • Of those caring for a loved one with diabetes, about one-third indicated that diabetes was the main reason for providing care and support.
  • Caregivers indicated that managing diabetes was the second-largest health challenge beneficiaries face.
  • Respondents cited their loved one's mental state including depression as the third-largest challenge they face in caring for their loved one.
  • Caregivers surveyed have an average of 1.8 chronic conditions, and two-thirds are concerned about taking care of their own health.

Caregivers Face Significant Responsibilities in Coordinating Care

The role of care coordinator is a significant burden, according to the survey results. Respondents are conducting both medical and non-medical support activities, including transportation, medication management, nutritional support, physical support and managing finances. Specifically, the survey revealed that:

  • 73 percent of respondents provide care coordination, and 65 percent expressed concern about care planning and coordination of care.
  • 79 percent of caregivers provide transportation needs for their loved one.
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents are helping their loved one manage their medications.
  • 74 percent provide nutritional support and physical support to their loved one.
  • 71 percent help with managing their loved one's finances.

"As the chronically ill Medicare population continues to grow at a rapid pace, we need to identify ways to support the family caregivers that are critical to maintaining their loved ones' health," said John Schall, CEO, National Family Caregivers Association. "This survey helps spotlight the issues caregivers are facing and the importance of considering the unique demands associated with higher-needs caregiving."

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted via telephone interviews by DSS Research on behalf of Care Improvement Plus and the National Family Caregivers Association among 300 caregivers of Care Improvement Plus Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans enrollees across five states: Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas. Interviews were completed between Aug. 29 and Sept. 28, 2012. This survey employed a stratified random sampling method and with a sampling error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points with a 95 percent confidence interval.

About Care Improvement Plus

Care Improvement Plus is a leading provider of Medicare Advantage plans uniquely designed for beneficiaries with chronic conditions including diabetes, heart failure and chronic lung disorders, as well as those with both Medicare and full Medicaid. A UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Solution, Care Improvement Plus is committed to delivering high quality benefits and specialized services.

About the National Family Caregivers Association

The National Family Caregivers Association educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 65 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age. NFCA reaches across the boundaries of diagnoses, relationships and life stages to help transform family caregivers' lives by removing barriers to health and well-being.