Few people have “become a family caregiver” on their list of life goals. However, this responsibility is very much a reality for many people. In fact, according to the Caregiver Action Network, a whopping 29 percent of the US population—more than 65 million people—provide care for a “chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend.”
But while being a family caregiver is a monumental task, it’s not one that comes with formal training, which can leave many people feeling adrift—particularly if they’ve been thrust into the role with little advance notice or preparation. If you’re among this group, the following list of frequently asked questions can help you navigate the ongoing changes.
1. Do family caregivers get paid?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t straightforward. Perhaps the AARP puts it best in saying, “In some cases and some places.” Your state Medicaid office is the best place to start when it comes to determining whether your family member qualifies for a self-directed care plan, which would enable him/her to hire a family member to provide care.
Additionally, financial relief may be available via other means. For example, the federally supported National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) provides services aimed at easing the burden of elder caregiving. Available through your local department on aging, FCSP services include information about available services; assistance in gaining access to services; individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training; respite care; and supplemental services on a limited basis.
Lastly, certain disease-specific organizations may offer financial assistance for family caregivers of people with the disease. Checking in directly with the organization can help you find any available funding.
2. What if I need to take off from work for caregiving?
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to certain employees to care for themselves or a sick family member without jeopardizing their jobs or insurance. Certain restrictions apply, so if you work for a smaller company or have not met the minimum requirements, you may not be eligible for FMLA leave.
3. What if I can’t do it alone?
Depending on the level of care needed by your aging loved one, you may need extra help with everything from bathing and dressing to cleaning and laundry. While other friends and family members may pitch in, extra help is also available in the form of home health care services and in-home care services. The former provides a range of medical services—which may be covered by Medicare in certain cases—while the latter assists with everyday tasks. Medicaid might pay for limited in-home care if your aging loved one qualifies.
Lastly, many government programs provide help for people over 60, including meals programs and transportation services.
Self-care is very important for caregivers, and yet many find themselves neglecting their own wellbeing while caregiving. Respite services, which are available through in-home care agencies, senior facilities with short-term stay capabilities, and adult day services, offer temporary relief from the day to day responsibilities of caregiving.
If you need to find long-term care for an aging loved one but lack the financial resources, this video can help.
4. Can I still be a family caregiver if I don't live locally?
While we often think of caregiving in terms of daily tasks, coordinating care is an important and time-consuming task. If you don’t live near to your aging loved one, you can still provide caregiving by educating yourself as much as possible about resources and services. If your budget allows, hiring a care manager can also be productive.
Even something as simple as researching and purchasing adaptive clothing for an aging loved one can help support them from afar.
5. How can I help my family members agree on care for our aging loved one?
Families don’t always get along, to begin with. Factor in the intensity and stress of an ailing relative, and these tensions can escalate. Open lines of communication are essential, as is dividing up responsibilities. (Again, remote caregivers can contribute by taking on the coordination of care.) Mediator services are also available: Geriatric care managers, social workers and other professors can all help facilitate difficult conversations and decision-making.
There’s no denying that providing care for an aging family member isn’t easy. But the good news is that plenty of resources are available to help, including mmLearn. mmLearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmLearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. Visit our free online caregiver video library today to access our comprehensive online training resources for caregivers.