For older adults who need help living independently, there are many options available to caregivers. Long-term care can encompass a wide variety of services, from help with meals or chores to around-the-clock assisted-living care at a nursing home. Kathleen Yanik is the communications manager for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, which serves Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. She spoke at a recent caregiver expo put on by the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Resource Committee in Port Huron. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was a sponsor of the event. Finding outside help can be critical for families trying to care for an aging parent or loved one, Yanik said. Even if you think your caregiving experience is relatively simple and under control, she explained that getting help is important because it can reduce the risk for caregiver burnout. “Do seek outside help,” she said. “Caregiving is a really tough journey.” So, where do you start? What do you need to know? Here are some steps to help you put a long-term care plan in place:
- Start by thinking about the needs of your loved one. Is the person you’re caring for in good health, but could use some help making meals during the day or getting to and from appointments or errands? Local meal delivery services and senior transportation options might be all you need. If you’re concerned the person could be a danger to themselves if left home alone, there might be adult day centers nearby that could offer regular respite. Sometimes, a nursing home might be the best option if the level of care needed is beyond what a family member can provide. “Sometimes that’s absolutely the best place for someone to be,” Yanik said.
- Gather financial information. What can you or your loved one afford to spend on outside help? Do they have any long-term care insurance? Would they qualify for long-term care services through Medicaid or another program? To find out if you qualify for financial assistance, you’ll want to know your loved ones’ monthly income and the amount of assets they have.
- Contact your nearest Area Agency on Aging. “Area Agencies on Aging are one of the keys to finding long-term care wherever you are,” Yanik said. There are more than 600 in the country, with 16 located in Michigan. This network was created by the federal Older Americans Act of 1973 to connect seniors, people with disabilities and family caregivers with local services to improve quality of life. Yanik said resource specialists can help answer questions and explain options available in your community. Visit eldercare.acl.gov to find the Area Agency on Aging closest to you or call 800-677-1116.
- Evaluate your caregiving plan periodically. Check in regularly with your loved one about how they’re doing and how they’re liking service providers. If something isn’t working or if more needs are identified, it’s important to be flexible and adjust as necessary to best meet their needs.
No matter how extensive the care needs of your loved one, it’s important to include them in conversations about their care. At whatever level they are able, making decisions about their own care will help you ensure their wishes are carried out and it can give them a sense of control throughout the process. If you found this post helpful, you might also like:
- How to Talk to a Loved One with Early-Onset Dementia
- Kim Campbell to Address Caregiving Expo
- Advanced Directives: Peace of Mind for the Future
Photo credit: Fred Froese