Adults providing eldercare face emotional, time and financial demands that can be quite draining. Old notions of putting a frail parent in a nursing home may no longer apply: as Baby Boomers age, over 77 million Americans will retire in the next 30 years, and there is simply no way to build enough nursing homes or assisted living facilities to accommodate so many people.
Happily, there is free help and information available to persons dealing with this challenge. Caregiver support includes such things as counseling, service referrals, home care, even financial aid in certain circumstances. The good news is that this support network is growing in the face of increasing demand. The bad news is that it is still not routinely available everywhere. If you need free caregiving assistance, here are the places to look first.
The best source for eldercare assistance in many communities are public service agencies. Senior centers, community services agencies (CSAs), and public health departments offer many services for different needs in a given area. Check all three types to see what may be of use in your situation.
Programs are low or no cost, and government agencies may include financial aid for certain income brackets. Services may include help with cost of in-home personal care, help with chores, shopping, transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments.
To locate organizations, look first at your local city’s municipal website in the health or community services section. Agencies there often link to other services in your area. Or, do a Google search for “eldercare” + “community services” + your city name, or for “senior center” and city or county name. You can use yellow pages, of course, but a web search typically turns up a greater variety of related services.
Volunteer and non-profit organizations
Many volunteer or non-profit organizations, including faith-based groups, offer free eldercare assistance. This may range from transportation to meal delivery, to getting free blood pressure checkups and minor home repair services.
Most groups operate regionally, not nationally, so you will need to do some research to locate a helpful organization near you. A sampling of such groups include:
Jewish Family Services (example); eldercare may also be offered under Jewish Community Services/
Catholic Eldercare Services (example)
Lutheran Volunteer Corps, which assigns volunteers to local eldercare services. Contact the LVC for a referral to local programs.
For other denominations and general volunteer organizations, a Google search for “church” or “volunteer” +eldercare+services + city name will point to resources near you.
General information links
U.S. Council on Aging: emergency home response, meals on wheels, insurance counciling, and a benefits identification program.
The American Association of Retired People (AARP): family caregiving information and support resources.
U.S. Administration on Aging: directory of eldercare services of national scope.
Finally, large health care providers may offer free senior services if your parent is already insured by them. Kaiser Permanente, for instance, offers additional senior care services for no charge under the program name “Continuing Care Services.” Contact your health provider for more information.
Deborah Teramis Christian is a freelance writer and former business consultant who writes on a variety of contemporary issues.