If you find yourself caring for an aging parent or loved one, you are not alone. In fact, according to the Caregiver Action Network, there are 65 million people in the U.S. — that’s 29% of the population — that provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member.

This number will only increase as the U.S. population ages statistically in the coming years.

For most, the responsibility of becoming a family caregiver arises suddenly.  It is nearly impossible to predict how or when a person will become impaired and the assistance you may need to provide. Panic, frustration, additional stress, guilt can easily set in as one tries to figure out what to do, and how to get it done.

The following simple tips are based on personal experience, trying to be a good son and family caregiver long distance.  My mother passed away suddenly this past winter and she had been the primary caregiver for my elderly father.  This created an immediate void in care and need for information, services and help. I knew my father did not want to move into a home, but would need help to continue to live independently in his own home.

I didn’t know where to begin.

My father lives in a small town in Connecticut. With the help of a computer search, I came across the Town of Farmington Social Services and Senior Services offices. The Elderly Outreach Coordinator for the Town of Farmington was a tremendous resource regarding local and state funded programs that help supplement family caregiving and reduce the overall cost. She told me about the state’s Department of Social Services program Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders (CHCPE). CHCPE is run by a third party agency called Connecticut Community Care, Inc. (CCCI), whose mission “… identifies choices and provides services to help people of all ages, abilities and incomes to live at home.” This was exactly what I needed, and their word was true. CCCI’s staff members are professional, friendly and have a can-do approach to their job. They have been very helpful with questions, the application process, even in-person visits and assessment of needs.

Where you can find help:

Tip 1 – State Resources – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging (AoA) supports State Units on Aging (SUAs) and local Areas on Aging (AAAs) that provide services to help seniors. Click here to find the resources available in your state. My personal experience with the State of Connecticut resources led me to a number of programs that proactively cater to elderly citizens and focus on in-home care options in particular. 

Tip 2 – Local Connections – Once you have located your local elderly services via the AoA, establish contacts and ask questions. The people staffing these services know the area and can hopefully help you find some “hidden gem” resources that can relieve some of the caregiving burden. Common opportunities are driving services, health coverage consultation, and agencies that provide services and/or activities for the elderly. The individuals I spoke with in my father’s small town in Connecticut were extremely professional and eager to help.  I could not have navigated the first 90 days without them.

While my personal effort took nearly a year, quite a bit of paperwork and determined persistence, the result is a fruitful blended family caregiver/ professional caregiver program that respects my father’s wish to remain in his home and provides for his well being.

Being a family caregiver is difficult but it is also an essential and respectful duty. Every family situation is different. My particular situation is made more difficult by distance, living 800 miles away from my father, but I know now I am not alone.

My simple advice, in closing, is to look for local and state resources that can help. You will hopefully be pleasantly surprised by the caregiver support options that are in your own backyard.

Park Owens

President, Juvo Products, Inc.