Payment Uncertainty Remains an Obstacle Between Seniors, At-Home Care Providers

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, several studies highlighted how older adults in the U.S. wanted to age in place, but often lacked the planning and financial resources to do so.

As the crisis exposed serious flaws in America’s long-term care system, especially among nursing homes, many believed older adults and their loved ones would take a more proactive approach to their care plan. But that doesn’t appear to be the case, according to new survey findings from AARP.

“Recognizing that they may need assistance as they get older does not mean that adults 50-plus have really thought about how they will live independently,” AARP researcher Teresa Keenan wrote.

Particularly of note for in-home care providers, there seems to be ample confusion about how home health aide services are paid for and the role Medicare plays.

Specifically, many of the people AARP surveyed incorrectly believed, or were uncertain about, whether Medicare covers long-term care services. Roughly half of the 50-plus survey respondents said they thought that Medicare covers care in a nursing home or care in their own home from a home health aide.

That could be an incredibly costly oversight, as the monthly median cost of home health aide services was $5,148 in 2021, according to Genworth Financial’s latest Cost of Care Survey. That figure was calculated based on 44 hours of care per week.

“Long-term care is expensive,” Keenan wrote.

Overall, nearly seven in 10 of the individuals AARP surveyed said they believed they’ll need support with their activities of daily living (ADLs) as they age. At the same time, fewer than three in 10 said that they have given a lot of thought as to how they will continue to live independently, if they need such assistance.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had little effect on individuals’ thinking about independent living, according to AARP. More than six in 10 of those surveyed by the organization said they were thinking about the topic “about the same now as two years ago.”

AARP’s survey was based on responses from 1,011 U.S. adults 50 and older. The survey was administered by phone and online, from Dec. 9 through Dec. 13, 2021.

Several companies have either launched or pivoted to help combat the pervasive long-term care confusion in the U.S.

In September 2021, for example, The Helper Bees (THB) launched its aging-in-place provider marketplace. Broadly, the marketplace is designed to help connect consumers to care providers.

More recently, Honor unveiled Honor Expert, a service meant to be a “one-stop shop” for seniors seeking care or resources. 

“I think the really exciting thing is that it lets us help more people than just those who use home care,” Honor CEO and co-founder Seth Sternberg told Home Health Care News in May. “It really brought who we’re able to provide service to, to a much wider set of folks.”

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