You are a family member of your senior loved one. You are loving and close by, so you are, sometimes by default, the primary caregiver. You’re not paid, but it often feels like you should be. Family members and professionals, like doctors and accountants, rely on you to be there to manage things. You have no experience, much less expertise, in giving care to a person with medical, emotional and spiritual needs. But who else is there?
It’s also likely that you have to carve out time from your personal life. There are many days when you are overwhelmed. You are dealing with a roller coaster of emotions, like anger, frustration, confusion, and sadness.
If you don’t manage it all, you have to look at an institutional facility for your loved one, which is such a huge step. It would take a lot of energy just to explore alternative care, much less implement the move. Besides, you, your loved one, and your family want to stay at home.
Indecision and guilt keep you awake at night. You ask, “Am I up to the task? How do I find time for caring and my own sanity? How do I find help?”
Fortunately there are resources to pursue that are relatively easy to get and are free or inexpensive. They will help you address problems effectively and tap expertise for the short and long term. Contact information is provided here for easy reference.
– The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org/stl/) is a tremendous community resource. St Louis is fortunate to have one of the top associations in the country. They host many programs to help the caregiver, including:
-Helpline: The 24/7 service (800.272.3900) offers disease related information, community resource information and emotional support at no charge.
– Care Consultations: Individualized consultations with trained dementia specialists to address specific needs and concerns. Minimal fee with scholarships available.
– Respite Assistance Program provides stipends to give family caregivers much needed time off or to buy essential care products.
– Support Groups: Scheduled gatherings led by trained volunteers for caregivers who have a loved one with dementia or memory problems. Attendees share struggles and solutions. Groups meet at various locations and times. There is no charge.
– Area Agencies on Aging: (MEAAA in the county – www.mid-eastaaa.org/, 636-207-0847 – and SLAAA in the City – www.slaaa.org/, 314-612-5918) The AAAs offer services similar to the Alzheimer’s Assn., including subsidized Senior Centers, which provide meals and socialization for short periods of time, usually for loved ones who can drive and walk independently.
– Senior Resource Guide (www.stlouistimes.com): The free Guide is commonly referred to as our area’s “industry bible” when it comes to providing resources for our aging population. It is published both online and in hard copy. Both editions include the area’s largest database of available resources and information for older adults. The Guide is used extensively by professionals and lay people alike. Free at numerous locations throughout the region.
– Adult Day Centers: In contrast to Senior Centers, adult day centers provide a weekday respite (as long as 7am-6pm) to the caregiver while providing health services, therapeutic services, and social activities. They bill for the day or partial day. It is an economical way to receive care, especially for caregivers who have to be free during the workday. For a complete list of centers, see the Alzheimer’s Association, AAA web sites, or the Senior Resource Guide.
– Meals on Wheels: (314-268-1523; www.mowstl.org) Recipients must meet liberal income- eligibility criteria and live in areas where meals are delivered. Nutritious and tasty meals are planned and prepared by professional and delivered by volunteers. Meals are supplied at cost to recipients. During the delivery, volunteers often share a friendly conversation with the consumers.
– Home-Care Agencies and Registries: In the metropolitan area, on both sides of the river, we enjoy more than 100 home care agencies (with employed caregivers) and referral registries (with self-employed caregivers). The Senior Resource Guide and Alzheimer’s Assn. has lists with services offered. There are usually minimum-hour periods of care and rates of $20 per hour on average. Screened, professional companion-caregivers can be life-savers, literally, for the loved one and the primary family caregiver.
The Alzheimer’s Assn. and Area Agencies on Aging can answer questions about funding assistance through Medicare, Medicaid, insurance carriers, and veteran aid groups.
Other resources exist, but this is a start. Just remember, many thousands of caregivers are in the same spot you are, and these actions are simple and inexpensive.
Age at HomeCare, a registry home health company, is owned and managed by Davis Allen, former Exec. Dir. of Sarah Care Adult Day Center. He has an MA in Human Resource Development and is a Certified Nurse Assistant. He continues to work as a companion caregiver with his own clients. All of his associates have previous direct care experience so they are attuned to the needs of their clients and
Resources for the Family Caregiver
Davis Allen, Owner