Support for Family CaregiversSupport for Family Caregivers

Informal or “family” caregivers are becoming increasingly more common as the U.S. population ages. In fact, there are an estimated 43.5 million family caregivers who care for someone 50+ years of age, with 14.9 million of these caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

In addition, unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S., as the number of seniors age 65+ will more than double by the year 2030, increasing to 71.5 million from 35.1 million in 2000.

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month this November, here’s an overview of the support available to family caregivers.

Social Support through the NFCSP

The U.S. government formally recognized this trend in 2000, passing the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) as part of Older Americans Act of 1965. Supported by the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA), this program provides grants to states based on their population of seniors 70+, and funding a range of services for caregivers.

The goal of the NFCSP is to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety among caregivers, and enable them to provide in-home care longer. Services include help in locating local assistance programs, counseling and training, and respite care services that gives caregivers a break to run errands or get away from the house for a short time.

On of the easiest ways to access these resources is to use the AoA’s Eldercare Locator. This online database allows you to quickly locate nearby services based on your zip code or city. It also includes several free downloads of info regarding possible benefits, factsheets, and planning tools. You can chat online with a live information specialist or call a toll-free number one weekdays.

Financial Support and Benefits

An additional area of support often needed by family caregivers is financial, since many have to give up their jobs or at least reduce their work hours to care for their loved ones. It’s important to check into policies your loved one my hold for hidden benefits that could help your situation. For example, in some states, Medicaid (not Medicare) will help pay for a caregiver to care for the aging family member at home. Other policies, such as long-term insurance, may include similar provisions as well, since a family member caring for a loved one is most likely much more affordable than professional in-home care or even nursing homes.

You might also be able to claim your loved one as a dependent, even if he or she is not living with you, as long as you are paying for at least 50% of his or her living expenses. You might also be able to deduct medical expenses – such as gas to and from doctor appointments and prescription costs – as long as you are paying at least 50% of the medical costs. These are all beneficial topics to discuss with your tax advisor.

In so many cases, help is available but must be requested. If you are already struggling to meet all your duties as a caregiver, it might be challenging to find the time to make phone calls and research online, but the benefits of doing so might make a drastic difference in your own living situation.

Professional In-Home Respite Care Services

If you are in the situation of not necessarily needing full-time help with your loved one but wishing you had a small amount of relief, you may want to research providers that offer in-home help in smaller increments. Many providers offer help for hours of time a day, half-days, or just overnight. These small breaks of time can give you the chance to not only find out more ways to help your loved one, but also give you a much-needed break to care for yourself.

It’s important to remember that in order to best care for your loved one, you must also take care of yourself, physically, mentally, and even financially. Make the time to do so, and quality of life for both of you can be increased greatly. As the statistics show, you are far from alone in your efforts, so be sure to utilize the resources available to you.

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.


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