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6 Ways to Make Caregiving for Family Members Easier

July 27, 2018

Many people who are not professional healthcare providers find themselves propelled into the role of caregiver for various reasons. A fall, a health crisis or a growing stack of unpaid bills can all be signs that a loved one needs some extra help. But the “why” of this situation isn’t nearly as important as “what” and “how:”

  • What help does your loved one need? 
  • How can you help them get it?
Fortunately, there are caregiving support and resources available to help get you started down that path. Here are 6 keys to finding and taking advantage of those resources:
1. Where to Begin?

It’s usually a health event that triggers the need for caregiving, so understanding health insurance is critical—especially if you’re caring for someone on Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, or someone who is considering a move onto Medicaid.  

The national network of State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs — though some states use a different name or acronym) offers guidance from trained counselors who can help you understand your state’s specific Medicaid requirements. You can often find these experts working out of places like community senior centers and state or local government offices.  

For assistance finding your local SHIP counselor, visit the SHIP National Technical Assistance Center.

2. Seeking In-Home Support

You might also be looking for caregiver support for someone still living on their own—to help make that home as safe as possible. Your local elder-services organizations might have specialists who can make a home visit and suggest easy, inexpensive ways to make daily life easier and reduce at-home injury risks. Check the U.S. Administration on Aging’s searchable database of local agencies who can help.  

3. Nurturing Nutrition

A good diet is another critical piece in the puzzle of keeping loved ones healthy and self-sufficient. Local meal delivery programs can help with daily meals, and their volunteer drivers can be valuable social contacts for folks living on their own. Meals on Wheels America can help you find a nearby program.  

For those who can still get out and about, the local senior center might also host regular meal gatherings, providing good food and plenty of socialization. The U.S. Administration on Aging database is a good place to start for these contacts, too.  

4. Everyday Assistance

Maybe your loved one just needs a little help with activities of daily living—things like housecleaning, getting dressed, and getting in and out of a bath or shower safely. You can hire home health aides through local or private agencies to provide these services.

One resource for finding this help is the state-by-state listing maintained by the Family Caregiver Alliance’s Family Care Navigator. Click on your state, and then on the arrow for “Services for Care Recipients Living at Home” to start your search.

When getting to the doctor is difficult, telehealth options like LiveHealth Online can be a great alternative to an office visit. It’s like an online house call—patients can use almost any internet-connected device for a live video consultation.

5. Taking Care of the Caregiver

Caregiving can be a fulfilling experience, but some people also find it challenging. You wouldn’t be the first to feel stressed or anxious, which could lead to your own health problems. Employing home health aides can give you time to run errands or hit the gym. Or, ask local rehabilitation and nursing centers if they can provide expert, short-term respite stays to give you a much-needed break.

Making time for your own exercise, relaxation and recharging isn’t selfish. It’s critical to keeping you going—and keeping your loved one healthy.

6. Great General Resources

Several national agencies and associations offer online libraries and directories that can help you find the caregiving support and resources you or your loved one might need. Here are just a few of them:

  • AARP’s Family Caregiving website – a comprehensive resource covering a broad range of caregiving issues, along with an online discussion board that connects caregivers to each other  
  • Family Caregiver Alliance – offers education and directories for caregivers and is also a national voice for caregiving policies and advocacy  
  • Help for Cancer Caregivers – though specifically directed to those caring for cancer patients, many of the resources apply to all caregivers, regardless of the loved one’s condition  

When it comes to being a caregiver for a loved one, finding the right support resources can make all the difference. Start by identifying the tools that will help you provide the best care, look into the resources in this article and learn more about how you can do your new job in the best way for your loved one—and yourself.