Dear Savvy Senior,
Where can I turn to for caregiving help? I help take care of my 80-year-old father and work too, and it’s wearing me out. Worn Out Wendy
Taking care of an aging parent over a period of time – especially when juggling work and other family obligations – can be exhausting. But help and resources are available. Here’s what you should know.
Identify Your Needs: To help you determine and prioritize the kinds of help you need, a good first step is to make a detailed list of everything you do as your dad’s caregiver and the amount of time each task takes. Identify the times when you need help the most and which tasks others might be able to do for you.
Then list the types of care needed, such as simple companionship or doing active chores, like shopping or running errands. Once you determine this, here are some tips and places you can reach out to for help.
Care Helpers: If you have siblings or other loved ones close by, start by asking them if they could come and help with specific tasks. And see if friends, neighbors or faith group members could help too.
You also need to check into local resources that may be available. 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 your nearby Area Aging Agency (800-677-1116) for referrals to services or visit https://www.areawideaging.org/.
There are also a bevy of online services you can use to help you save time on certain chores. For example, online grocery shopping and home deliveries, and online pharmacy medication refills and deliveries. You can also order meal-kits or pre-made meals online through numerous meal service delivery companies and arrange needed transportation with ride sharing services like Lyft or Uber.
Or, if you can afford it, you may want to consider hiring someone a few hours a week to help with things like cooking, housekeeping or even personal care. Costs can run anywhere from $12 up to $25 per hour. https://www.care.com/ or https://www.carelinx.com/ are two good websites to help you find someone, or you can work with a local home care agency.
Financial Aids: If you’re handling your dad’s financial chores, make things easier by arranging for direct deposit for his income sources, and set up automatic payments for his utilities and other routine bills. You may also want to set up your dad’s online banking service, so you can pay bills and monitor his account anytime. Or, if you need help, consider hiring a bill paying service like SilverBills https://silverbills.com/, which charges a flat fee of $150 per month.
BenefitsCheckup.org is another excellent tool to look for financial assistance programs that may help your dad, particularly if he’s lower income.
Technology Solutions: To help you keep tabs on your dad when you are away at work or if he lives alone, there are affordable technology devices that can help. For example, there are medical alert systems and smart speakers that help with communication and allow him to call for help if needed. Home video cameras with two-way speakers that allow you to monitor and talk to him when you’re away. Electronic pill boxes that can notify you if he has taken his medications. And to help you coordinate his care with other members of his care team there are websites like https://lotsahelpinghands.com/.
Other Resources: There are also a number of other organizations you can draw on for additional information like the Family Care Alliance (Caregiver.org), which provides a state-by-state listing of caregiving programs and services; the Alzheimer’s Association https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving that provides information unique to the challenges of dementia caregivers; and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs https://caregiver.va.gov/, which offers caregiver support services to veterans and spouses.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.