As caregivers face new challenges, Regence eases the journey

Published March 11, 2020

New insights into caregiver responsibilities

A new study shows that family caregivers are caring for loved ones with a wider range of illnesses across a wider spectrum of age groups. They’re looking for more support from their employers, from technology and from their health plans to ease their responsibilities.

The study from Cambia Health Solutions, “Wired for Care: The New Face of Caregiving in America,” estimates tens of millions of Americans are providing some kind of care for a loved one, whether that means helping with doctors’ appointments, delivering direct medical care or assisting in activities of daily living, like bathing and dressing. The study finds that more than 60% of caregivers are younger than 45, employed full or part time and have their own children. Put simply, that’s a lot of Americans, with a lot of responsibilities. And the need for family caregivers won’t abate any time soon.

For caregivers, a concerning development: increasing dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnoses

A new Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association finds that diagnoses of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s have climbed more than 130% in the past four years. People with these conditions are likely to need a caregiver at some point. This news makes it more important than ever to explore the role caregivers are playing throughout the healthcare ecosystem.

Regence Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies take innovative steps to support caregivers’ changing needs

Peggy Maguire, Senior Vice President of Regence, Palliative Care and a recognized thought leader in palliative care, speaks with about how the health plan is providing personalized support for caregivers and their loved ones. In the recent study, “Wired for Care: The New Face of Caregiving in America,” what did you learn about caregivers? And what surprised you?

Maguire: For more than a decade, we have been focused on helping people living with serious illness and their caregivers live well by increasing access to palliative care. This commitment led us to understand the importance of the relationship between the patient and the caregiver to the health of both. This study helped us understand who caregivers are, what they need, the challenges they face and how their caregiving responsibilities impact their personal and professional lives. These were some of the key findings:

  • We learned that caregivers are increasingly younger. So, many millennials – who make up the largest generation represented in our workforce – hold the role of caregiver.
  • We saw a 50-50 split between men and women reporting as caregivers, challenging the misconception that women traditionally fall into this role.
  • The modern caregiver is caring for multiple generations.
  • And they’re using technology in new ways to help manage their responsibilities.

We have a real opportunity to support this segment of our healthcare system and to develop solutions that fit their needs and communication preferences. Regence Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies offer a robust palliative care program, with services and coverage that help patients and their caregivers manage life with a serious illness. Palliative care can ease symptoms and provide other kinds of support for patients. But what’s the role of palliative care for caregivers, and how is your program unique?

Maguire: Palliative care is specialized medical care that is patient-centered and family oriented. It starts by communicating clearly and aligning care to patient needs and preferences. The ultimate goal of this team-based approach is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family, whether that is by managing symptoms and the stress of serious illness or by connecting the family to community resources. I hope every American who could benefit from palliative care learns more about what it is and how to access it. We’re here to simplify life for caregivers, not add to their stress. Our palliative care program, Personalized Care Support, launched in 2014, serves members across our four-state footprint in Washington, Idaho, Utah and Oregon. This innovative program is designed with our members—and their loved ones—at the center. It provides reimbursement for advance care planning, home health care, psycho-social support and personalized case management from nurses who specialize in palliative care. Many calls to these case managers are from caregivers, not the members. We form relationships with them and support them – whether the caregiver is a member or not.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield, Regence Blue Shield and Regence BlueShield of Idaho are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. We refer to them collectively as Regence Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in this article.