Using Community Services to Meet Changing Needs

Professionals and programs you can use to help

Just as there is a range of needs as we age, there are many community-based services to help. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one sort through the options. There are professionals you can hire and nonprofit programs available to help seniors to stay in their homes. And if more support is needed, there is a variety of housing arrangements that can keep your parents safe and healthy.

AARP Caregiving Resource Center tips how to call on community services to help an aging parent

Community resources can be very helpful when caring for a loved one. — Photo by Blend Images/Getty Images

Finding help at home

Home care aides
Help can be hired to do chores such as cleaning the house, grocery shopping or laundry, as well as assisting with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing or using the toilet.

Home health care
For skilled nursing care, physical therapy, wound care, medicating and help prescribed by a physician, you can arrange for a licensed medical professional to provide services in your home.

Home repair services
For basic upkeep and minor changes to make a home safer for an elderly resident, there are home repair services. These professionals can, for example, install grab bars in bathrooms, put special seats in the shower or build ramps for a wheelchair.

Meal services
If your parent can't get out or doesn't cook much, home-delivered meal programs can be a good way to get nutritious meals. Senior centers often offer lunch and the opportunity to eat with other people.

Companion and telephone reassurance services
Volunteers can make regular visits or phone calls to older adults to check in on their safety and provide social contact.

Home observation
In some communities, mail carriers or utility workers are trained to spot and report signs of trouble — such as mail or trash piling up — at the homes of older adults.

Personal emergency response systems (PERS)
For help in a fall or other emergency, a PERS is a simple device with a button that an older person can press to send a message to a hospital or police station that help is needed.

Hospice care
At the end of life, hospice services can allow seniors to stay in their own home. They can include medical care, counseling and pain control for terminally ill patients.

Next: Other community resources. »

Tapping resources in the community

For those who can no longer drive, there are often less expensive options than hiring a taxi. Many communities offer discounted senior transportation services with vans and volunteer drivers or discounted taxi programs to help get people to medical appointments, senior centers or shopping.

Senior centers
If your loved one is somewhat independent and mobile, he could enjoy activities at a neighborhood senior center. Many offer recreation programs, social activities and health screenings.

Adult day centers
For the older person with mental or physical challenges, these centers offer health care, recreation, meals and rehabilitative therapy in a group setting. There usually is a fee, but many programs offer financial assistance.

Respite care
When caregivers need a break, there are respite services to fill in at home, at an adult day center, or in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Considering a new home

This involves two or more unrelated people living together in a house. Sometimes an older adult rents out an extra bedroom in exchange for income and help in the home.

Retirement communities
This apartment-style building with individual units allows residents to care for themselves, but they share meals in a common dining area and housekeeping services are provided. Often some personal care and recreational activities are offered.

Assisted living residences
Housing for those who may need help living independently but do not need skilled nursing care. The level of assistance varies among residences and may include help with bathing, dressing, meals and housekeeping.

Board and care homes
These facilities offer services less than, but similar to, those of assisted living but are smaller. They are sometimes called group homes or personal care homes.

Continuing care retirement communities
CCRCs are designed to meet the changing needs of older people all on a campus. The resident may start out living on his or her own, then move to an assisted living unit or skilled nursing care as more help is needed.

Assistance in paying for services

If you can't pay for home and community services yourself, there are public programs available, including:

Providing medical coverage for most people over the age of 65, Medicare covers limited skilled nursing home care and home care benefits (1-800-Medicare).

This program is designed to cover medical care for those with low incomes. Medicaid may help pay for nursing home care and sometimes services at home.

Private long-term care insurance
This pays for care in nursing homes, assisted living and/or home care, depending on the policy.

You may also like: Share your caregiving tips.

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