As a family caregiver, you have a lot on your plate. There are endless daily tasks you could be responsible for, from bathing, dressing, and feeding your loved one, to scheduling doctor’s visits, paying bills, and administering medications. If your loved one is suffering from a chronic and/or worsening condition, it may seem like an unreasonable or unmanageable task load. Thankfully, there are a large number of community care resources out there to help you.
In this article, we’ll explore how to assess your current situation to determine where you could use some help. Then, we will explore some of the different options for help available to you and your loved one. Finally, we will provide you with a list of organizations you can use as well as their contact information.
Assessing Your Needs
Every situation is different. That’s why the first step to finding help is assessing your particular situation and the needs that arise from it. Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself. Write down your answers to the following:
What type of help does my loved one need to live as independently as possible? (Nutrition services? Health care? Supervision? Companionship? Housekeeping? Transportation? Something else?)
How much money is available to pay for outside resources? Will our insurance cover any of the services?
What days and times do I need help?
What assistance can I provide myself?
What types of help are my friends and family members willing to provide?
Different Types of Help Available
There are different types of help available in the community, and their usefulness to you will depend on your unique situation. Let’s explore some of the most common available resources.
Informal Care. This is the care provided by you, your friends, and family members - anyone who provides care without pay. It can be physical care (helping with the chores and day-to-day tasks) or emotional care. For this resource, we recommend creating a contact list of people who would fall under this category for easy reference as needed.
Information and Referral (I & R). Information and Referrals (I & R) are organizations that can help you identify your local resources. California’s Caregiver Resource Centers (that’s us!), national Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), senior centers, or community mental health programs are good resources that can help you find potential services. Examples of services they can help connect you to are housing services, meal services, and adult day care programs.
Case Management Services. Case management services can locate and provide hands-on management of services for your loved one. There are private pay professional case management services or community-based case managers who work at non-profit agencies and through local Area Agency on Aging Older Adult Programs in your community. They are a one-on-one service that works with you specifically to explore options and find solutions. Case managers usually have a background in counseling, social work, or a related healthcare field. They are trained to assess your individual situation and to implement and monitor a care plan to meet the needs of your loved one. They work with you, the physician, therapist, and patient to identify and arrange services such as transportation, home care, meals, and day care. Additionally, case managers can help screen eligibility for entitlement programs, plan for long-term care and intervene in crisis situations. To find a case manager, you can contact a local hospital, mental health programs, home health agencies, or your local Area Agency on Aging.
Legal and Financial Counseling. For many situations, you may want to seek legal counsel. We explored some of the reasons legal counsel may be beneficial to you in this article. To summarize, some of the estate planning aspects are best handled with an attorney (such as a living will, power of attorney, long-term care planning, preserving family assets, etc.) to ensure they’re legally sound.
Transportation Services. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires transit agencies to provide curb-to-curb paratransit service to those individuals who are unable to use regular public transportation. Paratransit generally consists of wheelchair-accessible vans or taxis for people with disabilities. Paratransit may be run by private, nonprofit, and/or public organizations and is usually free or low-cost. To find out about paratransit in your community, contact Easter Seals Project Action, which maintains a national aging and disability transportation paratransit database, or your local Area Agency on Aging.
Meals. Many churches, synagogues, housing projects, senior centers, community centers, schools, and day programs offer meals as a service to elders in the community for a minimal fee. For homebound individuals who are unable to shop for or prepare their own meals, home-delivered meals may be a great option. Programs such as Meals on Wheels provide discounted meals delivered to your door for a minimal (subsidized) fee.
Respite Care. Respite Care offers relief for family, partners, and friends so they can take a break—a respite—from the demands of providing constant care. This could offer you a few hours off to make your own doctor’s appointments, read a book, have lunch with friends, or a full day off. Respite care includes adult day care and home care services (see below), as well as overnight stays in a facility, and can be provided a few hours a week or for a weekend. Many caregiver support programs offer respite assistance as part of their services. Locate your California Caregiver Resource Center at caregivercalifornia.org
Adult Day Care. Adult day care offers participants the opportunity to get support and socialize with peers as well as receive health and social services in a safe, familiar environment. This is a great option for caregivers giving care to someone that cannot be left alone. There are two types of adult day care: Adult social day care provides social activities, meals, recreation, and some health-related services. Adult day health care offers more intensive health, therapeutic and social services for individuals with severe medical problems and those at risk of requiring nursing home care.
Home Care. There are two types of home care available to you: home health care services and non-medical home care services (also called custodial care). Home health care services may be covered by insurance and require physician approval to provide a wide range of skilled medical services, including medication management, nursing services, or physical therapy. Nonmedical home care (custodial care) services are private pay and include companionship, supervision, bathing, housekeeping, cooking, and many other household activities and chores. Home care combines health care and supportive services to help homebound, sick, or disabled persons continue living at home safely and as independently as possible. The hours, types of services, and level of care provided are determined by the health and needs of the care recipient and the caregiver; physician approval may be needed.
Palliative Care. Palliative Care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. The care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. This involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and to facilitate patient autonomy, access to information and choice. Improving the patient and family quality of life is the goal of palliative care.
Hospice Care. Hospice Care provides special services and therapies so individuals who are terminally ill can remain at home. Hospice attempts to improve the quality of life for terminally ill persons by controlling the symptoms of the illness and restoring dignity for the person until death. A hospice care team of professionals and volunteers tries to meet the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs by providing medical and nursing care, social services, dietary consultation, and emotional support to both the patient and the caregiver. Individuals receive ongoing scheduled visits as well as around-the-clock care when needed.
Support Groups. Support Groups bring together friends, strangers, and family members who meet regularly to share information and discuss practical solutions to common problems. They are a good source of information on available resources. Support groups also provide caregivers with the opportunity to give and receive encouragement, understanding, and support from others who have similar concerns.
Employee Assistance Programs. Employee Assistance Programs are an employment benefit that your workplace may or may not offer. These programs, if offered, vary wildly so it’s worth contacting your employer or HR team for more information.
Visit caregiveroc.org/community-resources for more information.