Providing long-term care can be a challenging task. Besides the complexity of determining how to best care for a loved one, it can also be difficult to handle the financial issues involved in arranging supportive care.
For many caregivers, providing care prevents them from working a full-time job, or even working another job at all, in some cases. As a result, for many patients, accessing funds or looking for available caregiving services can be crucial to receiving an adequate level of care.
To help guide patients in finding the best and most affordable care, patient navigation has become increasingly popular. Whether helping arrange a cancer screening at a cancer center or discussing treatment options, navigators can offer essential assistance in finding the best care options available.
A care navigator is a healthcare staff member who works closely with patients and the patient’s caregiver to overcome any medical or care-related roadblocks.
Care navigation generally involves a one-on-one consultation between a healthcare professional such as a nurse navigator and the patient or patient’s caregiver to help them identify ways to avoid barriers, whether financial or procedural, that can make it difficult for a patient to receive the care they need from the health care system. Through these partnerships, care navigators can provide the emotional support that comes from knowing your loved one has someone helping them find the best treatment options.
Care navigation can be pursued on its own or in conjunction with care coordination.
Care navigators who specialize in long-term care issues can help caregivers and care recipients find a care path that works within their financial and personal circumstances for as long as possible rather than for a short increment of time. They may also be able to provide advice about how to handle doctor’s visits or coordinate care with a patient’s care team, act as a patient advocate, and offer follow-up consultations to make sure a patient’s care continuum is maintained at an acceptable quality.
Working closely with a long-term care navigator can provide numerous benefits for caregivers and care recipients alike, including the peace of mind of knowing all options for care are being investigated.
Let’s review four cost-saving benefits that can result from engaging with a long-term care navigator:
Many people who require caregiving are over the age of 65 and thus eligible for Medicare.
While Medicare does not pay for long-term care, it is important for caregivers to understand the benefits Medicare does offer in case those under their care require hospitalization or long-term rehabilitation services, which are covered, for a certain amount of time, by Medicare.
In addition to helping caregivers understand the ins and outs of the Medicare program, a long-term patient navigator can explain how patients may be able to benefit from Medicaid’s provisions for caregiving if they qualify for the program.
Unlike Medicare, qualifying for Medicaid is typically based on a person’s income and assets, with those making under a certain amount qualifying in most states.
For those who do qualify for Medicaid, the program offers a waiver (Medicaid waiver self-directed long-term services and supports (LTSS) programs) that in some cases allows payment for at-home caregiving services to help meet a patient’s healthcare needs.
A navigator can provide information about this and other aspects of Medicaid that may benefit patients needing long-term care.
Another area where long-term patient care management services can be helpful is in identifying state and local programs that offer financial or other assistance for caregiving services and help with outreach if needed.
In addition, to the various state health departments, in each state, local organizations which are linked to the Administration on Aging (AAA) may offer services to assist caregivers.
You can use a navigator can help you search Eldercare.gov to find resources in your area that provide information and assistance for older adults and caregivers.
Another area where a long-term care navigator can help save money is by directing people to other public health programs that can offer assistance to those requiring caregiving services. These services can be directed at general health care assistance or specialized services such as cancer care for oncology patients.
Here are a few options to consider:
Besides government-sponsored programs, a patient navigator may also be able to offer expertise with regard to private insurance and other financial approaches to paying for long-term care, including:
To assess if you need a long-term care patient navigator, consider whether you have the knowledge and expertise to determine how best to seek financial and other aid for the services you are providing to help improve the patient’s quality of life. If you don’t have the know-how, seeking out a long-term care navigator or patient navigation program can be a valuable way to improve the quality of the caregiving support you provide.
When searching for a patient navigator to help draw up a care plan for your loved one as part of a healthcare team, a first step is to check with the agency or organization offering support to the person receiving caregiving services to see if they offer care management assistance. You can also check with your local Area Agency on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Center, your state’s department of health or human services or department of aging, or a social service agency.
Some lawyers specializing in family law or eldercare law will either offer navigation services themselves or be able to provide you with referrals to community health workers or social workers specializing in such services.
In addition, you can also find patient navigators through an online search or by checking with health care providers and facilities that offer long-term care services such as hospitals and nursing homes. These organizations may have formed partnerships with patient navigators as part of a patient management program.
Joshua Iversen is a Registered Investment Advisor Representative and Senior Planning Specialist with 30+ years of experience. As President and Chief Investment Officer of Santa Ana-based Syzygy Financial LLC, he helps seniors deal with all financial and healthcare aspects of the senior experience, including Social Security claiming strategies, Medicare, Medigap, long-term care, and overall financial planning strategy.
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