Help Caring for an Aging Parent

By Jim Miller

Taking care of an aging parent over a period of time — especially when juggling work and other family obligations — can be physically and mentally exhausting. But help and resources are available.

To help you determine and prioritize the kinds of help you need, a good first step is to make a list of everything you do as a caregiver, big and small. Note the amount of time each one takes every day, week or month. Identify the times when you need help the most and which tasks others might be able to do for you, like making lunch for your mother when you’re at work. Then list the types of care needed, such as simple companionship or doing active chores, like food shopping. Once you determine this, here are some tips and places you can reach out to for help.

Caregiving Help — If you have siblings or other loved ones close by, schedule a family meeting in person or by phone, to discuss specific tasks they could provide. See if friends, neighbors or faith group members could help too.

You should also investigate resources in your mom’s town. Many communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that help seniors and caregivers with basic needs such as home delivered meals, transportation, senior companion services and respite services, which offers short-term care so you can take an occasional break. Call the county Office of Aging (call 800-677-1116 for contact information) for referrals to services available in your community, or for respite services see ARCHrespite.org/respitelocator.

Financial Aids — If you’re handling your mom’s financial chores, make things easier by arranging for direct deposit for her income sources, and set up automatic payments for her utilities and other routine bills. You may also want to set up your mom’s online banking service, so you can pay bills and monitor her account anytime. Or, if you need help, hire a daily money manager (AADMM.com) to do it for you. They charge between $25 and $100 per hour. BenefitsCheckup.org is another excellent resource to look for financial assistance programs that may help your mom, particularly if she’s lower-income.

Technology Assistance — To help you keep tabs on your mom when you are away, there are affordable technologies that can help.

For example, there are medical alert systems (like Bay Alarm Medical, BayAlarmMedical.com), which provide a wearable “help button” that would allow your mom to call for help anytime she needed it.

Or, you could install a video-monitoring camera (like Lighthouse Al, Light.house/elderly-care) that lets you check in on her anytime via your smartphone or computer. These cameras have built-in motion and sound detection that will let you know when something is detected, and two-way audio that will let you talk and listen to her. There are even websites (like LotsaHelpingHands.com) that can help you more easily coordinate care with other family members.

Insurance Questions? — If you have questions about Medicare, Medicaid or long-term care, the Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) offers free counseling and advice on these issues. Call 877-839-2675 or visit ShiptaCenter.org to locate a nearby counselor. You can also get help through the Medicare Rights Center, which staffs a helpline at 800-333-4114.

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