Training Caregivers Pays Off
October 12, 2016 07:51 AM
Low income elderly and disabled Californians were less likely to be hospitalized or go to the emergency room if their at-home caregivers participated in an intensive training program, according to a new report from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
A pilot program trained nearly 6000 workers in three California counties, emphasizing infection control, medications, chronic diseases, first aid, CPR and other services. The caregivers were part of the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, paid for by the state to care for low income elderly and the disabled.
The rate of repeated emergency room visits declined by 24 percent in the first year after caregivers received training and by 41 percent in the second year, according to the study. Caregivers told UCSF researchers they felt better equipped to handle the technical parts of their job, as well as communicating with doctors and patients.
The training was provided by the California Long-Term Care Education Center as part of a three-year, $11.8 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Almost half of the caregivers in the program did not have a high school diploma, but they voluntarily for about 60 hours of classes and another 13 hours of homework to improve their skill and knowledge. Caregivers learned skills such as how to read medication labels, deciding when to call 911, or provide a healthy diet for diabetic patients.
“Training shows a lot of promise,” said Bob Newcomer, a UCSF professor emeritus who worked on the study. Researchers compared insurance claims for 136 elderly and disabled residents of Contra Costa County whose caregivers received training to the claims submitted by more than 2000 similar patients whose caregivers did not receive the training.
There are no federal standards for training at-home caregivers, but various training programs are being tried around the country, including, of course, California, Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina.
Researchers found that having the caregivers in the patients’ homes – many are relatives of the patients – enabled them to act as an early warning system for doctors, as well as help ensure that physicians’ instructions were carried out effectively.
As NAHC Report readers know very well, the demand for at-home caregivers is rising as the population lives longer with chronic diseases. Much of the work assisting the elderly and disabled is done by unpaid family and friends, but some states are now paying caregivers for low-income residents through Medicaid programs.