Community services can make a big difference, but it takes work to find those most relevant to your situation. Here are some tips to get you started:
Identify needs. Assessing what you and your loved one may need can be overwhelming. You can attempt this on your own, or you can hire a geriatric care manager who will conduct a formal assessment, which will identify both needs and sources of assistance. Learn more on how to properly assess your and your loved one’s needs.
Do your research. Find out what community services are available where your parents live, or get help from a geriatric care manager, social worker or hospital discharge planner. These folks can point you in the right direction for the services you’re interested in. In addition, some community agencies provide relevant information and referral services.
Compare costs. What will insurance cover? While you may be able to find free or subsidized services, some may be short-term only. If Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance policies provide coverage, be sure to find out the limits. Check with your area agency on aging, organizations offering community or faith-based services, and your local department of social services.
Check for the quality of services. There is limited government oversight of long-term care services, so it’s important for you to analyze their quality. If someone is coming into the home, interview them, check with the agency that represents them (if applicable), get referrals and ask for references. If you are bringing your loved one to a facility, take a tour, interview staff, ask to contact other families who are using/have used the facility in the past and take notes about anything amiss.
Get referrals. Start with friends and family. Interview providers and involve your parents if feasible. Find out about worker education, training and experience, and get at least two references. Ask if the agency screens and bonds employees and provides training. Visit facilities. How clean are they? What kinds of activities are going on? Who participates — those with physical disabilities? Speech problems? Alzheimer’s?
Be organized. Specialists on aging will tell you to organize a filing system for all the agencies you research. This will come in handy should you need to compare and contrast all of the different agencies and services you look into.
Be sensitive to your loved one’s reactions. Although your loved one may prefer that you or other family members provide all their care, you have the right to get help. Work through their concerns, and if needed, seek help from a geriatric care manager. While it’s their best interest that you have at heart, you need to remember to take care of yourself.