Taking Care of Elderly Loved Ones

Can Your Loved One Stay at Home?

If your loved one is healthy and desires his or her independence, staying at home may make the most sense. He or she may have friends and social resources that would be difficult to replace if he or she moved. Of course, staying at home gets more complicated when your loved one has limited physical or mental abilities. This section covers ways to get the help needed to stay at home (these may be short-term solutions).

Inexpensive Programs to Help Your Loved One

There are probably several programs available to your loved one. These may be offered by governmental or charitable agencies, and are, in many cases, priced according to a senior's ability to pay. Possible programs and resources include:

Home Maintenance and Repair ProgramsHelp with home repair and some general maintenance. Major renovations or cosmetic changes are usually not covered by these programs.

Meals-on-Wheels ProgramsOffer a daily weekday visit with a hot meal; also, the side benefit of a daily visitor.

Friendly visitor programsVolunteers visit regularly and provide companionship.

Telephone reassurance programsDaily telephone calls to check up on your loved one.

Congregate Meal Programs—Offer inexpensive meals and a place to go during the day to socialize.

Senior Centers- Offers social and educational programs. They are suitable only if your loved one is somewhat mobile and needs only limited help with activities of daily living. The costs are usually very reasonable; the center may even be free.

Adult Day Care Centers—Offers some of the same services provided by senior centers, but they also offer more assistance to participants who need help with activities of daily living, and, therefore, they tend to cost more.

Home Based Health Care Services

Home-based health care services include nursing services, medical treatment and physical therapy. Using home-based health care can be less expensive than a nursing home. It also eliminates the stress associated with institutional care or having family members performing these tasks themselves.

Check Medicare, your Medicare supplemental insurance, your long-term care insurance, and the local Medicaid rules to see to what extent these costs are covered. You can review the actual insurance policies, or call your local Medicaid or Medicare office for assistance.

Personal Emergency Response System

If your loved one is frail or either one of you is concerned about accidents in the home, consider a personal emergency response system. These systems include a beeper-like device that your loved one wears around his or her neck or wrist, or buzzers placed at different locations around the house. In case of an emergency, activating one of these devices signals a private security company that an emergency is in progress; your loved one provides the company with a prioritized list of people or services to call. These systems are not very expensive for the peace of mind they provide. Make sure that the company is reputable and that a live person will be responding to any emergency calls.

Getting the Help You Need as Caregiver

Being a caregiver can be very demanding and can become a full-time job. Certain services, called respite care, are available to help you out. These range from support groups, which help you deal with the emotional stress of the situation, to hourly or weekend supervision of your loved one. It allows you to run personal errands or take important physical and emotional breaks. Costs can vary greatly (some programs are even free). For more information, call your area Agency on Aging.

Case Management

Case managers can help determine the right care plan. These services can range from a referral service to a team of experts who (for an hourly fee) will help you develop a strategy to best help your loved one. Some case managers will also help take care of the financial affairs for your loved one (pay bills, file tax returns). Case management can save you substantial money if a less expensive eldercare plan can be developed that provides equivalent or superior care. Contact the local Agency on Aging for a listing of services in your loved one's area.

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