Tips and Tools for Family Caregivers
Caring for an aging parent or other loved one over a period of time can be very challenging both physically and mentally. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and services that may 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 neighbors that you can call on when you cannot be there or you need a break.
Tap local services: Many communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that help seniors and caregivers by providing home delivered meals, transportation, senior companions and more. Call 211 to find out what is available in your community.
Use short-term respite services: Some organizations may offer short-term care for your mom so you can take some time off. To locate services in your area, try the Eldercare Locator at eldercare.acl.gov.
Hire in-home help: You may want to consider hiring a part-time home-care aide that can assist with preparing meals, housekeeping or personal care. Costs can run anywhere from $12 to $30 an hour or more 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. To find someone on your own, which may be more affordable, try asking friends, neighbors, doctors or others who may be able to provide recommendations. You may also try using your favorite search engine to find reputable aides who have undergone background checks.
Use financial tools: If you are handling your mom's finances, you can make things easier by arranging direct deposit for her income sources and setting up automatic payments for her utilities and other routine bills. Also, consider signing your mom up for online banking with her bank so you can pay her other bills and monitor her account anytime. If you want or need help, there are professional daily money managers who can do it for you. These professionals often charge between $60 and $150 per hour.
If your mom is lower-income, you may be able to locate financial assistance programs in her area 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 (SHIP) 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. The Medicare Rights Center also staffs a helpline and can be reached by calling 800-333-4114.
Tap other resources: There are a number of other organizations you can draw on for additional information, such as local nonprofits and government agencies. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (www.caregiver.va.gov) 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.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.