Home Aides Relieve Stress for People Caring for Loved Ones

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By Roy Herndon Smith "Susan" was burned out. Nine months earlier, she had taken what she thought would be a temporary leave of absence from her job to care for her 85-year-old mother, who was recuperating from surgery after falling and breaking her hip. Her mother never fully recovered. She still needed help with bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning and almost everything else. In the last couple of months, she had become forgetful and confused. She neglected paying her bills, and Susan had to take over managing the checkbook. Susan found that she was spending almost all of her time taking care of her mother. She was close to using up her savings. She hadn't spent an evening with a friend or visited her daughter, son-in-law or grandson for over six months. She was lonely, exhausted, scared and often angry. She wasn't sleeping well. Her back was bothering her. She seemed to catch every virus that was going around. "Susan" is a composite case, but her suffering is similar to that of many of the family members, companions and friends caring for disabled loved ones with whom we have worked over the last decade. Stress, isolation, impoverishment, exhaustion, increased vulnerability to illness and injury are too often the costs of such care. Securing the services of a professional home health or personal care aide is usually the single most effective way of alleviating caregiver burnout. Often, an aide allows the caregiver to get some rest, return to work, visit other family members and have a social life. You can secure the services of an aide by calling a licensed or certified home care agency. Long-term care insurance will usually pay for home care. Medicare and other health insurance programs will sometimes pay for limited amounts of home care. Medicaid will pay for home care. If your loved one's income or assets are above the financial limits, a knowledgeable social worker, geriatric care manager or elder care attorney, in most cases, can show you legal ways to reduce assets and shelter "surplus" income to receive full Medicaid benefits. Roy Herndon Smith is with Community Geriatric Care Management, a subsidiary of Foremost Home Care.

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