When Pat Franta's then 91-year-old mother could no longer get out of bed because of emphysema and severe arthritis, Franta moved into her mother's Strongsville home and became her caregiver.
She spent hours on the telephone finding help — home care aides, home-delivered meals and transportation to medical appointments — so her mother would be taken care of while Franta worked her full-time job.
It took Franta, 59, to the breaking point.
"I'm a nurse practitioner," she said. "I should have known where the resources I needed for full-time home care were, but I didn't."
Eventually Franta learned about the caregiver support program provided by the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in Cleveland.
Using materials the agency provided and with the help of an AAA care coordinator, she found the necessary resources to support her mother at home rather than having to move her to a nursing facility.
Franta is now telling people her age about the program because "they may not need help from them now, but that can change in the blink of an eye."
Most caregivers are unpaid
Nearly 1.7 million Ohio residents helped care for a frail adult family member in 2009, according to an analysis (pdf) by the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI). The economic value of that care, PPI estimated, was $17.5 billion.
About one in seven Ohio residents is 65 or older; by 2030 that will increase to nearly one in four, according to Miami University's Scripps Gerontology Center in Oxford.
As the state ages, more services to help family caregivers will be needed, Taylor said.
To help address that growing need, AARP Ohio is launching a program for caregivers.
On Nov. 13, AARP Ohio will begin making automated calls to about 130,000 members who have expressed an interest in caregiving issues.
During the calls, representatives of the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging will discuss the available in-home services. AARP representatives will discuss information that is available online to caregivers.
In addition, the experts will discuss programs caregivers can tap into, such as:
- Care management programs that provide education and training for family caregivers through local AAAs or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Caregiver support groups through organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association and the American Cancer Society.
- In-home respite programs that provide breaks for caregivers, often with fees based on ability to pay.
- Public benefits that can help pay for groceries, medications and utilities.
More money for home-based care
AARP Ohio and Central Ohio AAA volunteers will staff a phone bank from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 27 during the WCHM-TV, Channel 4, news program. Viewers with caregiving questions can call 614-821-4444.
The volunteers will provide information or refer callers to caregiving resources in the Columbus area.
More resources are now available because the Ohio General Assembly allocated an additional $152 million for home- and community-based services this year.
AARP Ohio advocated for the additional money for the services, which allow frail people to remain at home rather than move to a nursing home.
"With these programs," Taylor said, "we are going to link thousands of caregivers to resources they never even knew existed."
For more information on and assistance with caregiving, visit the AARP Caregiving Resource Center.
Eileen Beal is a writer living in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
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