First, assess your loved one’s needs. What types of help are needed? Ask family members and friends to share tasks. Look for resources in your community, such as home health care or adult day care centers. The Eldercare Locator can help you find in-home help; transportation; resources to install ramps, grab bars, or other home modifications; and other resources in your area. It can also help you learn about options for paying for care.
It can be helpful to know where your loved one’s important papers are stored so you can find them when you need them. Getting Your Affairs in Order has a list of legal, financial, and personal records you’ll want to locate and organize.
Another tip: Get formal permission from your loved one to talk with his or her lawyer, bank, and healthcare providers in advance. Many of these institutions have their own forms that must be signed with your loved one’s consent.
If you live an hour or more away from a person who needs care, you are a long-distance caregiver. There are a number of jobs you can take on even if you live far away. You can arrange and coordinate care in the person’s home or long-term care facility, help with finances, organize legal and financial paperwork, or help make the home safer. You can also research local resources and learn how to make the most of your limited time when you visit an older relative far away.
You can also hire a geriatric care manager—a specially trained professional who can help your family identify needs and make a plan to meet those needs.
Whatever kind of help your loved one needs — for example, with personal care, transportation, or meal preparation — it may be available in your community. You can get more information from your local Area Agency on Aging, local and state offices on aging or social services, tribal organization, or nearby senior center.
Sometimes, an older person you care for can no longer live safely in his or her own home. Some may move in with family or friends. People who require lots of help might move to a residential facility, such as an assisted living facility, nursing home, or continuing care retirement community. But how can you find a place that will take good care of the older person you love and meet his or her needs? If possible, it’s best to plan ahead for long-term care.
Many caregivers and older adults worry about the cost of long-term care. These expenses can use up a significant part of monthly income, even for families who thought they had saved enough. How people pay for long-term care depends on their financial situation and the kinds of services they use. Often, they rely on a variety of payment sources, including personal funds, federal and state government programs, and private financing options. Veterans may also be eligible for assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Family caregivers make a lot of sacrifices to care for older or sick relatives. Some even quit their jobs to care for a loved one full-time. Your state may offer help to certain caregivers. Programs vary, so contact your local Area Agency on Aging to find out what programs are available in your neighborhood. Veterans, Medicaid recipients, and people living with certain diseases may also be eligible for financial assistance through federal, state, and private organizations.