QUESTION: Can you recommend any resources that offer help to family caregivers? I’ve been taking care of my 86-year-old mother and could use some help.
ANSWER: Caring for an aging parent or other loved one over a period of time can be challenging both physically and mentally. Fortunately, a number of tips and services you can turn can help lighten the load. Here are several to consider.
Assemble a care team: A good first step is to put together a network of people, including family, friends and even neighbors, whom you can call on to help out when you can’t be there or need a break.
Tap local services: Many communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that help seniors and caregivers by providing things such as home-delivered meals, transportation, senior companion services and more. Call 211 to find out what’s available in your community, or call AARP’s caregiving resource center (877-333-5885), which provides referrals to local resources.
Use respite: Respite services can provide short-term care to your mom so you can take some time off. To locate services in your area, try the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center at ARCHrespite.org.
Hire in-home help: You may want to consider hiring a part-time home-care aide that can help with things such as preparing meals, housekeeping or personal care. Costs can run anywhere from $12 to $30 an hour, depending on where you live and the qualification of the aide. To find help through an agency, use Medicare’s search tool Medicare.gov/care-compare. Or to find someone on your own, which is a more affordable way to go, try websites such as Care.com or CareLinx.com.
Use financial tools: If you’re handling your mom’s finances, you can make things easier by arranging direct deposit for her income sources and set up automatic payments for her utilities and other routine bills. Also, consider setting up your mom’s online banking service at her bank so you can pay her other bills and monitor her account anytime. If you want or need help, professional daily money managers (see AADMM.com to locate someone) can do it for you. They charge from $60 to $150 per hour.
Also, if your mom is lower-income, use BenefitsCheckup.org, a free, confidential website that will help you locate financial assistance programs that can help pay for her medications, utilities, health care and other needs.
Get insurance help: If you have questions about what Medicare or Medicaid covers, or about long-term care, your State Health Insurance Assistance Program provides free counseling on all these issues. Call (877) 839-2675 or visit ShiptaCenter.org to locate a nearby counselor.
You can also get help at Medicare.gov or by calling (800) 633-4227, and through the Medicare Rights Center, which staffs a helpline at (800) 333-4114.
Tap other resources: For additional information, you can draw on a number of other organizations, such as the Family Care Alliance (Caregiver.org/family-care-navigator), which provides a state-by-state listing of caregiving programs and services; Caring.com, which offers caregiving advice, senior housing information and online support groups; the Alzheimer’s Association (ALZ.org/care), which provides information unique to the challenges of dementia caregivers; and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (www.caregiver.va.gov), which offers caregiver support services to veterans and even spouses of veterans.
Take care of yourself: Make your own health a priority. Being a caregiver is a big job that can cause emotional and physical stress and lead to illness and depression. The only way you can provide the care your mother needs is to make sure you stay healthy.
Jim Miller is editor of the Savvy Senior. Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org.