Caring for aging family members at home reduces the need for institutionalized care and offers many benefits to families. The cost of home care is substantially lower than that of living in large assisted living communities, home care keeps families together and home care has been seen to extend and improve quality of life overall. Caring for family members at home is not without its challenges, however, and there are resources available to support caregivers. Unfortunately, such resources often go unknown to family members who take on caring for aging relatives. Sometimes caregivers take themselves for granted and see their daily work as a natural part of family life. Even if elder care is considered a natural part of family life, every caregiver can benefit from professional support from time to time and knowing the types of support available is the first step.
Adult Day Care
Adult day care programs offer supervision and interaction to older adults who need assistance or supervision during the day. Adult day care can be a beneficial supplement to in home care in that it can provide daily routine and structure in a safe environment. Day care provides social interaction to participants and allows time for caregivers to maintain jobs or other daily commitments.
There are different types of adult day care programs, tailoring them to fit participants’ needs. Health focused day care centers provide medical care for those in need of a skilled nursing level of care throughout the day. Social based programs offer activities such as games, crafts, movies and field trips for people who require less in the way of medical care but still need help with activities of daily living and who would otherwise be home alone during the day. Memory day care programs are dedicated to Alzheimer’s and other types of memory loss. Memory care programs have specifically designed environments to help participants maintain independence while keeping them safe from wandering or other behaviors associated with memory loss.
Respite care is defined as temporary institutional care of a dependent elderly, ill, or handicapped person, providing relief for their usual caregivers. Respite care differs from adult day care in that it can include overnight stays and 24-hour care for the client. Although family may be caring for a loved one at home, respite care becomes beneficial for family vacations or business trips, or during periods of prolonged illness or recovery. Assisted living communities and group care homes offer respite stays as their occupancy allows.
It is important to know that most places require a minimum stay and charge a daily rate. It is also a good idea to search out and find respite connections before actual respite is needed for peace of mind in knowing there is a place your loved one can go should you need help. Also, because respite availability is based on resident occupancy which can fluctuate frequently, it’s a good idea to have connections with two or more places for ease in scheduling respite stays. Keep in mind, as well, that respite clients are often paired as roommates with other respite clients and that private rooms, if available, will increase daily fees.
Online and Government resources
The internet offers a wealth of information related to family caregiving. There are state specific agencies and programs that can be found, as well as more general sites, like the National Caregivers Library.
In states like Arizona and California, for example, government agencies are good starting places for caregiver support. The state of Arizona’s Department of Economic Security offers a Family Caregiver Support Program which can be accessed by contacting one’s local area agency on aging. In California, Caregiver Resource Centers are in operation throughout the state and provide services to families and caregivers at low or no cost.
On a national level, the National Caregivers Library offers information on many topics from caregiving basics to emotional and end of life issues, to financial and government resources. A caregiver handbook is available for order through the library that includes resources, worksheets and checklists, all essential for organizing and putting aging family members’ affairs in order and keeping track of daily care. The site also contains links to state level government resources for information on the types of programs previously mentioned.
Caring for aging family members at home is beneficial in keeping costs of care low, keeping families together and in improving quality of life. Although rewarding, family caregivers may need help and support from time to time, and there are many resources available. Getting support as a caregiver helps prevent exhaustion and burn out, and keeps caregivers on track to provide quality care for loved ones for years to come.