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Five Questions for Gail Sheehy On Caregiving

As part of its series “Five Questions For…,” The Fiscal Times interviewed Gail Sheehy, journalist and author, about her latest book “Passages In Caregiving: From Chaos To Confidence.” Sheehy, best known for her 1974 book “Passages,” chronicles her own caregiving experiences (her husband, Clay Felker, died in 2008), talks with other families and lays out a guide to navigating the process.

Q: When caring for the chronically ill, you say, ‘Follow the money.’ Why?

A: Financial incentives force hospital behavior. Older and sicker people are repeatedly admitted to the hospital, which is not the best way to handle illness.

Q: Having a medical quarterback, you suggest, is best. How so?

A: A doctor to help assemble your team and call the plays makes life so much easier. Or, hire a geriatric care manager.

Q: But insurance doesn’t cover that, in most cases.

A: No, but some companies offer care managers to help. The primary caregiver cannot do it all. It’s too injurious to the caregiver’s health.

Q: Your thoughts on government help for family caregivers?

A: There’s never been tax breaks for people who provide family health care. It’s an obvious solution, but in this political and economic climate, it won’t happen.

Q: You chose palliative care for your husband. Explain why.

A: It’s comfort care with no deadline. It’s before hospice, and treatment is matched to the patient’s goals. The geriatrician puts power back in the hands of the patient.

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