…One Step at a Time
There are 53 million “informal” caregivers in this country. These caregivers are not paid or considered professionals. Rather, they are extraordinary individuals who care for people in their lives and help with a variety of needs every day. You and I are perfect examples. Assisting my father in caring for my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago, I am aware of the challenges and the rewards that come with this occasionally difficult responsibility.
In my professional life at Humana Cares, I work with registered nurses and other health professionals to provide personalized health coaching, care management, health education, and health support to our members with chronic illnesses. Through my dual role as a family caregiver and health professional, I know how important it is to work together to help our loved ones navigate the challenges illness and disease can bring.
All of us want to grow old in our homes–in the place we feel the most connection. Unfortunately, as caregivers know too well, traditional Medicare only covers an estimated half of the expenses related to aging at home, and the costs can add up quickly–often requiring a combination of personal services, home health care, and geriatric care management.
The combination of formal support from my team at Humana, for example, and the support of a family member can often provide the encouragement our loved ones need to find ways to make small changes that improve health. Often, the first step in building or maintaining well-being is to define a motivation.
For example, a great-grandmother might balk at walking around the block every morning. But she might be very motivated to stay active so she can walk down the aisle at her great-granddaughter’s wedding without the aid of a walker or cane.
Once this tangible motivation is defined, the journey can start with small steps. Maybe first walking to the mailbox and back for a few days, then around to the backyard to check on plants. Little by little with a goal in place and positive encouragement, the great-grandmother embraces a more active and healthier lifestyle.
As caregivers, our role may be to help our loved ones find their motivation and support the behavior change that results. Often even the smallest change can make a difference in the quality of life.
Remember that your encouragement as a caregiver delivers the best support for your loved one. I know from experience this isn’t always easy. But recognize that through this journey, you and your loved one are giving each other a great gift.
Debra Kleesattel, PhD
Director of Operations
Humana Cares, a national division of Humana, Inc., provides integrated complex and chronic care management programs for nearly 125,000 Humana members across the country.
The Caregiver’s Voice invited family and professional caregiver, Debra Kleesattel, PhD of Humana, to help inform family caregivers who care for loved ones at home.