“It shouldn't be like this”: Family caregivers navigating insurance for family members with dementia

Mikayla Gordon Wexler, Deborah Watman, Sasha Perez, Claire Ankuda, Jennifer M. Reckrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Almost 11.3 million family caregivers of people with dementia must navigate the health insurance landscape to meet the complex medical and long-term care needs of their family members. This study explores factors that influence family caregivers' decisions about insurance and how these choices affect the care and support people with dementia receive. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted from June 2022 to January 2023 with 15 family caregivers of people with dementia dual eligible for Medicaid and Medicare and enrolled in home-based primary care in New York City. A set of open-ended questions were asked exploring caregivers' perspectives on navigating insurance plans. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis with both deductive and inductive coding. Results: Analysis revealed three major themes: (1) challenges of Medicaid enrollment, (2) making do with existing insurance, and (3) mistrust of the insurance system. Initial enrollment in Medicaid compounded the stress of adjusting to caregiving. The enrollment process was impacted by clinical factors, financial factors, and input from providers and social workers; however, caregivers could not identify a centralized system for obtaining insurance information and support. Once Medicaid was in place, participants described advocating on behalf of their family member within the constraints of their current insurance plans (Medicare and Medicaid) and ensuring they had the necessary knowledge to understand their family member's coverage. Participants voiced a need for ongoing vigilance to ensure their family members received needed care and support. Conclusion: The challenges family caregivers experience when navigating insurance for their family members with dementia contribute to caregiver burden. Robust and centralized professional support for family members both immediately after a family member's dementia diagnosis and as the disease progresses could increase caregivers' capacity to make insurance decisions that best support their family members with dementia.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • caregivers
  • dementia
  • dual-eligible
  • insurance


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