Caregiver Counseling Could Save Millions in Dementia Costs

Keeping dementia patients at home for as long as possible can go a long way in improving states’ Medicaid budgets. When caregivers take part in a counseling and a support program, patients are more likely to remain at home longer and save tens of millions of Medicaid dollars, a new study published in The Gerontologist found.

One such support program is the New York University Caregiver Intervention (NYUCI)—a program that consists of six counseling sessions over four months for the primary caregiver and family of a senior with dementia, in addition to optional participation in an ongoing support group and telephone counseling as needed, Medical Xpress reported.

Researchers compared Medicaid costs of Minnesota dementia patients with caregivers that participated in the NYUCI and those that did not. They predict there will be a dramatic increase in dementia patients relying on Medicaid from 2011 to 2026—more than a two-fold increase in Minnesota. If caregivers receive training from interventions such as the NYUCI program, researchers expect that 5% to 6% more of these residents annually will be able to stay at home from 2014 on. From 2011 to 2026, this would result in 17% fewer dying in nursing homes.

Financially, the Minnesota Department of Human Services could save $40.4 million if the caregivers of all Medicaid enrollees took part in an intervention program.

Furthermore, the researchers believe that these savings could be even higher, as much $52.2 million, if the NYUCI was provided via video teleconferencing, which would eliminate travel costs for counselors providing the NYUCI sessions.

The overall implications show that through enhanced caregiver support, the growing tax burden of dementia can be moderated, even without any breakthroughs in drug treatment of the disease.

“The cost of residential care for Medicaid eligibles with dementia clearly is of greatest relevance from a state health policy perspective,” said Steven Foldes, PhD, the study’s lead author. “The current model is an important update of earlier models that shows that significant net cost savings are achievable from this primary payer perspective.”

Written by Elizabeth Jakaitis