Emergency room staff call it a “pop drop” – when a disabled older person comes in for medical attention, but it seems like the person who takes care of them at home is also seeking a break from the demands of caregiving. It’s been hard to actually study the phenomenon. A new University of Michigan study suggests that tired family caregivers are associated with greater ER visits and higher overall health care costs for the person they care for. In a paper in the new issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the team reports their findings from a study of 3,101 couples over the age of 65, each with one spouse acting as caregiver for their disabled partner. The researchers looked at the Medicare payments and emergency department visits for the disabled spouses in the six months after the caregiver spouses took standard tests to measure their fatigue, mood, sleep habits, health and happiness. Even after they took into account many factors, the researchers found that in just those six months, emergency department visits were 23 percent higher among patients whose caregivers had scored high for fatigue or low on their own health status. Patients with fatigued or sad caregivers also had higher Medicare costs in that same time period: $1,900 more if the caregiver scored high for fatigue, and $1,300 more if the caregiver scored high for sadness, even after all other factors were taken into account.
|Janet Morris, Director of Bet Tzedek’s Family Caregiver Program, with clients. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
If your mom is low-income and eligible for Medicaid, you may be able to get paid a small amount by the state. In 15 states, Medicaid offers a Cash & Counseling program (see cashandcounseling.org) that provides an allowance that can be used for various services, including paying family members for care.
Uncle Sam may also be able to help if you pay at least half of your mom’s yearly expenses, and her annual income was below $3,900 in 2013 (not counting Social Security). If so, you can claim her as a dependent on your taxes, and reduce your taxable income by $3,900. See IRS Publication 501 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf) or call the IRS help-line at 800-829-1040 for information.
If your mom doesn’t financially qualify for the government aid or the tax breaks, can she afford to pay you herself or do you have any siblings that would be willing to chip in? After all, if your mom had to pay for home care services, the costs would be anywhere between $12 and $25 per hour.
Pop will have been gone five years this April 14th and I find myself once again isolated, alone, drained, sleep deprived, lonley, malnourished, depressed, and boxed into a corner as the sole 24/7 caregiver to my nearly 30 year best friend, boss, roommate, running buddy Kjell who’s as hard case died in the wool, constitutionally incapable, jay walking, bull headed, stinking drunk that ever walked the earth with no redeeming or even barely likeable qualities left. Thats me and him there to the left on the day about 15 years ago after I kicked a US Prosecuter’s ass up and down the block in Federal Court while I went pro per not only under oath but also mirandized and facing a federal prison term myself if that prick of a dumbass rookie schmuck prick of an Assistant US Attorney had his way as he grilled me all day on the stand. The hardest day of my life. My pal here…was there for me…in the gallery behind said prickface Assistant US Attorney giving me a tug of the ear or a brush of his hair or gentle cough now and then that got me through that ordeal and I walked out of that US Federal Courthouse with my head held high a free man. So how can I not care for the rotten old bastard now when his lady of 20 years and his entire family and all of his friends have washed their hands of him and left him for dead?