Find trusted sources of help
Family caregivers frequently need to reach out for help, whether in the form of information, guidance, or support. This article explains some ways to assess whether a source of help can be trusted or not. It then lists and describes some major reliable sources of in-person and online help for caregivers.
Assessing sources of help
Family caregivers frequently need to reach out for help, whether in the form of information, guidance, or support. One good way to assess whether a source of help can be trusted is to look at the process of accreditation it has to go through and the amount of oversight it receives. For instance, agencies and health care professionals who have to undergo at least a minimum amount of credentialing or training can generally be trusted more than private ones who don’t have to answer to experts or authorities. The same is generally true for non-profit organizations and government departments. The good news is that there are plenty of trustworthy resources for caregivers, both in-person and online.
In-person sources of help
Caregivers often need sources of help in the place where they and/or the person receiving care live. Building a network of trusted helpers in the local community is a type of support that can’t be replaced. In addition, laws and programs regarding medical care and senior care vary widely by state, making it useful to have reliable, knowledgeable local resources.
Some trustworthy sources of in-person help are the local Area Agency on Aging, home health aides, and geriatric care managers.
Area Agency on Aging (AAA)
Area Agency on Aging is a national network of about 600 non-profit agencies that connect aging people and caregivers to community-based resources. The AAA is funded at the federal level, but it is run by counties and towns. Each one is somewhat different, but most of them give general information, referrals to services like elder law attorneys, and help with health insurance issues. Many also partner with other local groups to provide meals, transportation, and in-home caregiving. Some AAA regions also provide a Long-Term Care Ombudsman who will work on a person’s behalf regarding complaints, problems of abuse, or other problems with long-term care facilities.
Home Health Aides (HHA)
A home health aide is a health care assistant who has training in helping with non-medical areas of caregiving. They can help the caregiver with everyday tasks such as assisting the person receiving care with bathing, eating, and grooming, checking their vital signs, and doing the cooking and shopping.
Under federal law, home health aides must have at least 75 hours of training. Some states require significantly more than this.1 Though they do not carry out medical duties, HHAs are trained to handle emergencies, so the home health aide can respond if a person has an accident, heart attack, or stroke.2
HHAs hired through an agency have been given background checks and will be monitored by the agency. The agency should be accessible 24 hours a day. Check to make sure that the agency is licensed by your state. You can find home care agencies in your area and check their licensing status by entering your city or zip code into the Homecare & Hospice National Agency Locator.
If you hire a home health aide directly, you will need to do the background check yourself. In either case, make a list of needs and desires that are specific to the person receiving care, and make sure the aide you hire is the right fit.
Geriatric care managers (GCM)
A geriatric care manager, also known as a geriatric social worker or aging life care professional, is usually a licensed nurse, a social worker, or therapist who specializes in working with aging adults and their families. They have in-depth training in areas such as health, psychology, and family dynamics.
The GCM should have certification through the National Academy of Certified Care Managers, which will ensure that they have the highest level of education. They should also belong to the National Association for Professional Geriatric Care Managers.3
Geriatric care managers can:
- Provide emotional support such as counseling and crisis intervention.
- Offer practical help by taking on tasks like setting up appointments, liaising between the person and their family members, setting up the best living arrangements, and even handling the person’s financial and legal matters (with the approval of at least one adult child of the person receiving care).
- Give information and help get access to local community programs and organizations that can be of use to the caregiver and person receiving care.
Geriatric care managers generally charge between $50 and $200 an hour, depending on their qualifications.4 For caregivers with a small budget for outside help, calling in a GCM for an hour a week or every two weeks, to get their help specifically with issues requiring professional guidance, can be a worthwhile use of funds.
Online sources of help
In addition to in-person help, there are also many trustworthy online resources for caregivers. Trusted sources may come in the form of government resources or non-profit caregiver groups.
- National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging (NIH-NIA)—Caregiving. The NIH NIA website’s Caregiving page has clickable panels to multiple, clear articles on topics such as aging in place and long-distance caregiving. The site also has interlinked articles on self-care for caregivers and an FAQ page on caregiving.
- National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus. This useful site has a wealth of easily findable, trustworthy information on health topics, medications, and medical tests, among other things. There are also interactive online tools and a tutorial to help learn how to assess the trustworthiness of health information found online.
- Medicare. This federal government website has locators for health and drug plans, care providers, medical-equipment suppliers, and each state’s office for health-related financial support. It also gives updates on coverage rules and has 24-hour phone and chat lines.
- US Food and Drug Administration—Women’s Health—Caring for Others: Resources to Help You. Since two-thirds of caregivers are women, it makes sense that the USFDA’s Women’s Health website would have a page for caregivers. It has interlinked articles on topics such as how to read drug labels and understanding the health condition of the person receiving care.
- Administration for Community Living. ACL’s website is an excellent and reliable source of information and guidance for those who want to live in their communities instead of institutions. It includes:
- Links to America’s Aging and Disability Networks, including state units on aging.
- Clear guidance on applying for caregiving pay through the National Family Caregiver Support Program
- Extensive information on the national Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, and an ombudsman locator for each state.
- The Eldercare Locator, which allows someone to plug in their zip code to find eldercare services.
Non-profit caregiver groups
- Family Caregiver Alliance. This nationwide group is one of the biggest caregiver-support organizations, and it offers impressive resources, including:
- A CareNav tool that gives caregivers free, situation-specific information through a questionnaire.
- A Services by State tool that is a clickable map allowing the caregiver to find programs and services nearest to them.
- Caregiver Action Network. The CAN has a clear, colorfully illustrated website with linked articles on everything from tips for family caregivers to caring for people with specific conditions. It also offers videos and a repository of caregivers’ stories.
- Next Step in Care. A program put on by the United Hospital Fund, this smaller group focuses on helping caregivers provide a smooth transition from facility to home, or vice versa. It has a long list of very useful guides and checklists for both general caregiving—for example, guides on HIPAA forms and medication management—and more specific situations, such as hospital discharge and home care.
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External supporting content
1Home Health Aides: When Your Loved One Needs Help with Personal Care. AARP.
2Home Health Aides: When Your Loved One Needs Help with Personal Care. AARP.
3Geriatric Care Managers. HealthCarePathway.com.
4What Is a Geriatric Care Manager? Senior Safety Advice.