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Caring for a family member usually involves piecing together a crazy quilt of help, based on your specific needs and what's available in your community. Here are some resources to consider.
Where To Start
Your local Area Agency on Aging
How it helps: These government-funded agencies — 623 across the country — help you connect to specific programs where you live, such as respite care, support groups, education and training, and emergency assistance.
Where to look: National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
How it helps: Another handy first stop in a services search, this site, run by the U.S. Administration on Aging, can steer you to adult day programs, financial and legal assistance, housing options, in-home services and more.
Family Care Navigator
How it helps: For more locator assistance, this state-by-state listing of safety-net services is operated by the Family Caregiver Alliance, a research and advocacy organization for family caregivers. Listings include programs and services within public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Where to look: Family Care Navigator
How it helps: This site is full of expert financial, medical and other advice for caregivers, as well as online support groups, a directory of eldercare services and a free interactive guide to Alzheimer's care called "Steps & Stages."
Where to look: Steps & Stages guide
More Specific Services
Day respite services
How they help: "Respite" is a fancy word for "giving you a break." Day programs for older adults (sometimes ignobly referred to as "adult day care") provide safe, supervised settings at community centers, assisted living residences and other sites. Some are drop-in programs; at others, you sign up for certain hours and days.
Where to look: Your local Area Agency on Aging can point you to local services, or try ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center's National Respite Locator. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also runs adult day health care programs for veterans.
Overnight respite services
How they help: Harder to find but in growing demand, short-stay services are increasingly offered by assisted living and memory-care facilities, nursing homes and some hospitals. Alternately, you can hire a professional to come to your home while you're away through home-care agencies or referrals from family, friends and medical professionals.
Where to look: Check ARCH National Respite Center's Respite Locator (see above); ask at local assisted living facilities or home-health agencies.
How they help: They provide company and social stimulation to the homebound and act as an extra set of eyes and ears for you. Some will drive to appointments and run errands or do light housekeeping and meal prep.
Where to look: Ask an in-home care agency or try a local Area Agency on Aging for referrals.
Personal care services
How they help: When you need help with bathing, dressing, feeding and other tasks, these workers can save you time, minimize your back strain and handle personal care tasks you are uncomfortable performing.
Where to look: Home health agencies and in-home care agencies.
Meals on Wheels America
How it helps: Take some of the worry out of a relative living alone through this network of more than 5,000 community-based senior-nutrition programs. Recipients get a daily hot meal and also someone checking in and providing a little companionship. Payments are on a sliding-fee scale, from free to full price.
Where to look: Find a local program. Churches or other groups may run similar unaffiliated programs in your community.
Next Step in Care
How it helps: Because transitions from one setting to another (hospital to rehab, home to nursing home) can be hard, this United Hospital Fund program provides step-by-step guides for family caregivers and health care providers to help them work together for safer, smoother moves. You can also find forms for health records, help with medication management and more.
Where to look: Next Step in Care
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support
How it helps: For those caring for a veteran, the VA's Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program pairs you with a mentor volunteer who agrees to be available by phone, email or mail for six months or more. A caregiver-support coordinator can connect you with services such as home health aides, skilled home care, respite care and hospice care.
Where to look: Call the VA Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274 toll-free or visit the website