Caring for your aging loved one isn’t easy, but you’re not alone. According to 2015 findings from the National Alliance for Caregiving, roughly 34.2 million Americans reported providing care to an adult age 50-plus in the last year.
For those living in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties, the Area Agency on Aging 1-B (AAA 1-B) provides information, support and resources to older adults and their families dealing with a variety of issues. Here, Kathleen Yanik, communications manager for the AAA 1-B, weighs in on some common issues and how families can cope.
Problem: Parent can no longer drive
Solution: Myride2 and transportation counseling
If you’ve noticed some damage to your loved one’s car or he recently got lost on the ride home, it might be time for him to stop driving.
How can you help make this transition a bit smoother? The AAA 1-B offers Mobility Options Counseling to put a transportation plan in place, which may include arranging rides through Myride2. This grant-funded senior transportation program allows area seniors to set up transportation to a doctor’s appointment or store, for example. Call 855-697-4332 for more information.
For those opting to take public transit who aren’t sure how to navigate the bus system, a Travel Training service is also offered.
Problem: Parent is homebound, isolated and struggling with meals
Solution: Meals on Wheels
For those ages 60-plus who are unable to leave the home without assistance, Meals on Wheels typically provides both lunch and dinner on weekdays – plus help with socialization and senior safety checks.
“Meals on Wheels is a wonderful program,” Yanik says. “People really think about Meals on Wheels as just that meal but it is so much more. It’s helping to overcome social isolation because you’ve got that volunteer that comes to the door every day. That might be the only person they actually see face-to-face.”
The AAA 1-B helps fund the Meals on Wheels program in its six-county region and can help you find your local provider.
Problem: Caregiver needs a break
Solution: Adult Day services or in-home respite services
“Adult Day services are really designed for people who might not be able to be left unsupervised,” Yanik says, including those with dementia, for example. Adult Day programs offer a safe, stimulating environment where caregivers can be comfortable leaving their loved one. Activities could include art, music, help with showers, or transportation to and from the center.
“For in-home respite, some people may qualify for help through one of our government-funded, direct care programs or a volunteer caregiver program,” Yanik says. The AAA 1-B can provide a list of private pay in-home care options, too.
Problem: Caregiver is stressed and feeling overwhelmed
Solution: Finding outside help and learning to manage stress
“I think it’s critical for folks who are caring for a loved one to reach out for help and support,” Yanik says. “Sometimes, people might feel guilty when they do that or feel like they have to do it all, but that’s really not true and reaching out for help and support is critical not only for your well-being but the well-being of the person that you’re caring for.”
Stress impacts physical and mental health, she notes. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving‘s 2015 report, 1 in 5 caregivers of those ages 50-plus feels that the task has made their health worse.
Consider placing a call to the AAA 1-B to see if they have programs that can help, or enrolling in their six-week Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes to learn stress reduction tactics.
Problem: Noticing changes in parents
Solution: Call the Information & Assistance telephone line
“That’s really the first step,” Yanik says of the line, which can be reached at 800-852-7795. “We can help you understand what help is available – either through our organization or a local community partner.”
Problem: Health care costs are confusing
Solution: The AAA 1-B Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP)
The medical system can be hard for caregivers to navigate, especially when it comes to costs. “Understanding health care billing and Medicare options can be daunting,” Yanik says. She recommends turning to AAA 1-B’s Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP). “Our team of highly trained volunteer counselors offer free and unbiased help,” she explains. MMAP can help you troubleshoot problems, understand your options, and explore if your parent might qualify for subsidy programs available to lower income beneficiaries.
For more information on the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, visit aaa1b.org or call 800-852-7795.