Too often we only think of the person receiving care when we think of caregiving. If you do a quick Google search for the word caregiver, you’ll find a vast amount of information on how to hire professional help, or how to best to give care for certain conditions, but only a handful of sites dedicated to providing information about caring for the caregiver. We’d do well to remember that caregiving is a two way street.
As a caregiver, you’re already the type of person who is willing to put someone else’s needs first, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard your own. It’s not selfish to think about yourself and when you take care of you, the positive benefit is transferred to your loved one. While there are many ways to care for yourself, from exercise to meditation, I’m going to focus on a few outside resources available to caregivers. Caregivers are either unfamiliar with these programs or simply overlook them because they do not think the programs apply to their situation. However, these resources are designed to help and should be taken advantage of.
The first and one of the most commonly used resources is respite care. Respite care comes in two forms, either in-home or out of home services. In-home care allows the person in need of services to remain in their home and it can be provided by volunteers or paid professionals. For short term, non-medical tasks like companionship or recreation, you should be able to find many local organizations and non-profits with volunteers eager to help.
For assistance that is more care intensive or medically necessary, there are agencies that can send staff to the patient’s home. Staff members can stay in the home for short periods of time and will assist with ADLs, homemaker services, and even skilled health care. Depending on medical and financial circumstances, the state may help pay for services so it’s worth looking into. For out of home services, there are adult day care centers or residential programs, which we will discuss next.
Adult Day Care:
The usual adult day care participant uses private funds and lives with their grownup children or spouse. Since day care is generally private pay, this option may not be for everyone, but if applicable, it can offer much needed relief. As a caregiver, you still have personal obligations, job obligations, or maybe you just need a break. If you need personal time, adult day care will provide you with peace of mind in knowing your loved one is in a safe environment.
There are three main types of adult day care: social, health, and memory day care. Social day care supplies meals, recreation, group interactions, and limited health-related services. Adult day health centers provide care for people who need intensive care and supervision. Seniors in adult day health centers usually require a level of care otherwise found in a nursing home. The third type, memory care, is devoted to those with dementia or other forms of memory impairment.
Even though residents must pay per day, it is far less expensive than moving a senior into any type of care home. If the day care is a health or Alzheimer’s facility and the care recipient meets certain financial and medical qualifications, Medicaid may pay for part of the bill. Also, if your loved one has long-term care insurance, the plan may cover adult day care so make sure to call the provider.
Residential programs are similar to adult day care in that the senior receives care out of their own home, but residential programs offer around-the-clock care for whatever length of time you need. Nursing homes, group homes, and other specialized facilities provide care, giving caregivers 24-hour relief. There are both emergency and planned services, but many caregivers only use residential programs when there’s an emergency. To avoid making a quick choice based on stressful circumstances, however, it’s better to plan ahead and try care providers before there’s been an emergency. That way, in the event a situation becomes dire, you are comfortable with a care provider and know whom to turn to. Certain long-term care insurance plans and veteran’s programs may help with costs so be sure to look into these options if they’re applicable.
Community Waivers and Medicaid:
Many people know that Medicaid offers long-term care services, but aren’t aware that can include community waivers. HCBS waivers (home and community based services) consist of respite care, home health, homemaker services, adult day health services, personal care, and more. The goal of HCBS is to allow seniors to age in place, longer and more safely. The only downside to Medicaid is that it is not easy to qualify for; applicants must meet stringent medical and financial guidelines. Eligibility varies by state, but see here for a nationwide Medicaid guide. There are unique programs in each state and most states have programs beyond what I just listed. You can call your local Medicaid office or ombudsman to find out what’s available in your area.
Max Gottlieb works with Senior Planning in Phoenix, Arizona. Senior Planning gives free assistance to seniors and their families, helping them find benefits or deciding which type of senior care is most suitable for their situation.