It can often be hard to tell when aging is affecting a family member. Don’t ignore the warning signs, because small things can add up to a larger challenge incredibly fast. If you notice certain changes in your loved one, it might be time to seek outside help:
- Withdrawal from social interactions, disinterest.
- Unusual behavior, like increased agitation, speaking loudly or little talking at all.
- Poor hygiene or nutrition.
- Signs of forgetfulness, such as piles of unopened mail, dirty or scorched cookware, unwashed laundry.
- Mismanagement of finances – not paying bills or making unusual purchases.
What to Do When Your Loved One Needs Care
As you notice changes in a loved one, there are a few things that you can do to help them and your family as a whole:
- Arrange for a family meeting to discuss your care options. Be sure to include the wishes of the loved one who needs care in the discussion.
- If there is a noticeable decline in thinking and reasoning in a loved one, schedule a doctor’s appointment and ask the physician to test for cognitive function. And don’t assume cognitive decline is an unavoidable part of aging. Some causes are treatable, such as interaction of medications.
- Have everyone in your family (including spouses) check with their employers to see if their companies offer any caregiver benefits.
- Ask the care agency for a care plan specifically based on your loved one’s physical needs, cognitive needs and goals.
- Have a family member accompany your loved one to as many medical appointments as possible. This allows them to serve as another set of eyes and ears, and become a patient advocate if necessary.
Resources and Options Available to Adult Caregivers
Making the choice to provide formal care for a loved one is a brave and difficult decision, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are resources available in most communities that will help you undertake the task of finding care for an elderly or disabled loved one.
If I want my loved one to be cared for at home, what are my options?
A trusted family member, friend or neighbor could be a cost-effective option. And you could always hire additional paid caregivers to supplement care. However, if you hire an individual who isn’t associated with a home care agency, keep in mind that you assume employer responsibilities. Most homeowner’s insurance policies exclude injury to privately hired caregivers, and many of those caregivers aren’t bonded or insured, so you’d be legally and financially responsible for many of their actions and responsible for the tax obligations.
You could also hire a private duty home care agency to provide services for your loved one. You should ask for proof that they perform background checks on their caregivers, as well as any required licensing. They should inform you of how they train their staff and whether or not they have 24-hour emergency scheduling services.
If your loved one doesn’t require too much physical and medical care, many areas have adult day care centers. These are often a lower-cost option than private home care services.
How do I pay for home care services?
Medicare, Medicaid and most employer-sponsored HMO and PPO plans will only reimburse you for intermittent visits from a home care nurse on a temporary basis and only when your loved one has a specific qualifying medical diagnosis. In general, these types of insurance policies are not designed to pay for ongoing, hourly caregiving services that are classified as “Long-Term Care.” (Use the Official Medicare Eligibility Tool to learn more.)
That said, there are many other financial options available to you in order to pay for ongoing care services:
- Long-term care insurance
- Reverse mortgages
- Employer-sponsored Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) or Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)
- Family trust funds
- Employee-sponsored caregiving stipends, such as “Backup Care” programs for employees who are adult caregivers and travel for work
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- State-subsidized home- and community-based services, often referred to as “Medicaid Waiver” programs (Age and income qualifications apply.)
- Veterans Aid and Attendance
- Catastrophic auto insurance