DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: What resources do you recommend that offer help to caregivers? I've been taking care of my 82-year-old mother, and it's wearing me to a frazzle.
— Exhausted Daughter
DEAR EXHAUSTED: Taking care of an elder loved one over a period of time can be incredibly taxing, physically and mentally. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and services that can help lighten the load. Here are several to consider.
Assemble a care team: A good first step is to put together a network of people (family, friends and even neighbors) that you can call on to help out when you can't be there or need a break.
Tap local services: Most communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that help seniors and caregivers by providing things such as home-delivered meals, transportation, senior companion services and more. Also, look into respite services (see respitelocator.org) that can provide short-term care to your mom so you can take some time off. Your Area Agency on Aging (call (800) 677-1116 for contact information) can refer you to services in your community.
Use financial aids: If you're handling your mom's financial chores, make things easier by arranging direct deposit for her income sources, and set up automatic payments for her utilities and other routine bills.
If you need help, hire a professional daily money manager (aadmm.com, (877) 326-5991) who can come in once or twice a month to pay bills, make deposits, decipher health insurance statements and balance her checkbook. They charge $25 to $100 per hour. Or, if your mom is low-income, a similar service is offered by AARP (aarpmmp.org) in select communities for free.
Benefitscheckup.org is another excellent resource you should use to look for financial assistance programs for lower-income seniors.
Get insurance help: If you have questions about Medicare, Medicaid or long-term care, your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a great resource that provides free counseling on all these issues. Call (800) 633-4227 or go to shiptalk.org to find a nearby counselor.