Q. My father, 87, lives with me and my family. Everything was going well until he broke his hip. He's home now, but requires someone to be with him all of the time. I need some time away to take care of family business, shop for groceries and the like. We've used up the goodness of friends, have no family in the area and can't really afford to hire someone to stay with him. Where would you suggest I turn for help?
A. What you are needing is "respite care." Respite care provides time off for people caring for family members. There are many types of services that may be used to provide caregivers the break they need. One way is to have a respite worker come into your home for a few hours. In some communities this service is available on a volunteer basis without charge. You might also consider taking your father to an Adult Day Care Center or a Nursing Facility Respite Care Center while you do the other things you need to do.
Contact your nearest Area Agency on Aging to find out what services are available in your community. Also ask the agency for a copy of the recently revised booklet "Explore Your Options." This is a great publication from the Kansas Department on Aging that is filled with information and coping tips for families with a loved one who is growing frail.
The booklet is designed to help families and caregivers analyze their individual situation to determine if there are resources at home and in the community to allow them to maintain the frail person's at-home independence or whether they should consider nursing home placement.
Explore Your Options explains respite care along with many other types of services that may be available and affordable near you. One of the really nice features of this book is that it contains a list of service providers for each of the 11 Kansas Area Agencies on Aging service areas. The book is updated each year, so the information will be current and accurate.
Another booklet you might find helpful, also available from your Area Agency on Aging, is the "Kansas Caregiver Guide," 2003 edition. It offers a range of suggestions to make caregiving easier and more successful.
Also often available through your Area Agency on Aging is a service called "case management" or "care management." A case manager is a specifically trained professional who can assess your situation and help you find affordable services that make caring for your father easier on everyone concerned. Case management through the agency has no fee.
To contact the Area Agency on Aging in your community, check the telephone directory. You can also find the office online at www.agingkansas.org/aaa.
Caregiving, even in the best of circumstances, is a hard job. It is estimated that more than 5 million families are caring for someone aged 50 or older -- 75 percent of the caregivers are female, by the way. It's a big responsibility. Your father is fortunate to have your love and help. Now, explore ways to find help for yourself. Begin by getting a copy of "Explore Your Options," and the "Kansas Caregiver Guide."