By Tori Cohen, Executive Director/Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation and
Jennifer Cona, Managing Partner/Genser Cona Elder Law
Caring for an elderly or frail loved one can be a joy, a responsibility and a challenge.
Spending quality time assisting someone who is dear can be immensely rewarding, but with the competing demands of work, family and personal, it’s imperative for caregivers to have reliable and regular back up and their own program of self-care. More than ever before, caregiving of a loved one is recognized as a key element of everyday life for countless working families here on Long Island.
Providing care, managing doctor appointments and navigating the healthcare landscape can be daunting for anyone, but if you add a full or part-time job outside the home into the mix, a caregiver can feel at a loss. The good news, however, is that there are many terrific programs and resources available that will help you care for your loved one at home, maintain your job, and not feel as though you are going through this alone. Here are some suggestions for getting help.
Assess your needs.
It’s important to determine how much time and energy you have to devote to caregiving, taking into consideration the demands of your job and your family responsibilities. List all of the caregiving tasks your loved one requires and then decide on the times you most need help and see if there is anything you can delegate to others in your family.
The Internet can be a tremendous resource to learn about the disease/condition afflicting your loved one and access information on support groups, workshops or programs in your area. The Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation in Westbury, for example, offers valuable programs aimed at improving the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, as well as for their caregivers.
LIAF’s programs are geared for every stage of the disease with a goal of keeping people at home for as long as possible. In addition to the day programs available in Westbury, LIAF also offers In-Home Respite and Weekend Drop-Off programs, Memory Cafes, caregiver training, counseling and support groups, and transportation service. For additional information about LIAF support groups, visit www.liaf.org.
Many elder law firms, such as Genser Cona Elder Law in Melville (www.genserlaw.com), provide vital information and free resources on their websites. Genser Cona Elder Law also provides a 24/7 telephone number on its website that provides free assistance to caregivers who are dealing with issues/questions that might arise in an emergency or on a weekend.
Working caregivers can also speak with their Employment Assistance Program to help navigate through their stressors, family issues and financial concerns.
Local Community Services
Many communities offer free discussions/seminars (many times at local libraries or senior centers) hosted by elder care professionals that cover a variety of topics relating to caregiving, healthcare, etc. These listings can generally be found in weekly community newspapers or online. Along with providing valuable information, this will also give you the opportunity to meet others who are in a similar situation.
Check with your town and county offices for services available for residents and caregivers.
Services may include adult day care centers, home-delivered meals, respite care, transportation services, home health aides, and more. Also just about every community has an adult day care center for older adults and those with a disability. Most offer social services and activities in a safe, supportive environment. Some also offer transportation. Your local church or synagogue can also be a valuable resource for free assistance and support groups.
Services for Veterans
Home health care, nursing home care, and adult day care benefits may be available through the Veterans Administration. Some programs are free, while others require co-payments, depending upon the veteran’s status, income and other criteria. Also, certain elder law firms, such as Genser Cona Elder Law, provide pro bono services for veterans.
Don’t forget self-care
It’s easy to forget to take the time to care for YOURSELF when you are juggling so many responsibilities to avoid caregiver burnout. Try to carve out some time to do an activity that brings you joy. Exercise is a great stress reliever and energy booster. Healthy, well-nourished caregivers are better able to handle stress. Try to get enough sleep, ideally eight hours per night. It’s important not to become isolated. Make the effort to keep in touch with friends and family members. And don’t forget the help a support group can offer. It always helps to talk to others that may be in the same situation.