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Published August 11, 2012, 11:30 PM

'Minding Our Elders' | New caregivers need to know what resources are available

DEAR CAROL: My parents are in their late 70s and had been doing really well, or so it seemed. Then, about three months ago, my dad had a heart attack from which he’s now recovered. However, during the time he was ill my siblings and I realized that our mother has been mentally declining.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

DEAR CAROL: My parents are in their late 70s and had been doing really well, or so it seemed. Then, about three months ago, my dad had a heart attack from which he’s now recovered. However, during the time he was ill my siblings and I realized that our mother has been mentally declining. It seems Dad had been covering for her for a long time. She has now been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. We are feeling overwhelmed with decisions and don’t know where to turn for help. Elaine

DEAR ELAINE: When caregiving comes at people suddenly it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes people don’t even know where to start looking for help, and when they do see options the whole range of choices can confuse and overtake them.

One excellent starting point is the Administration on Aging website at www.aoa.gov. From that base you will find many programs that will give you support and confidence.

One of their best resources is the National Family Caregiver Support Program which you can also access through your state’s official website. The NFCSP provides information to caregivers about available services. It offers assistance to caregivers in gaining access to those services and helps arrange individual counseling and caregiver training. The program also offers ideas for respite care and some supplemental services on a limited basis. Not every state offers the same benefits, but they all include some aspects of the program.

You will also find links to off-site resources on the AoA website. These include the Eldercare Locator which provides information about state and local agencies for aging, and community-based organizations that serve older adults and their caregivers. If you’d rather use the telephone than a computer, you can call (800) 677-1116.

The National Resources link is a part of the Eldercare Locator website, which can help you find useful topic-specific resources that you may not even have thought of yet.

Another link you’ll find on the AoA website is called the BenefitsCheckUp. This website helps consumers find benefit programs that help them pay for prescription drugs, health care, rent, utilities and other needs.

Medicare.gov is the official U.S. Government website for the latest information on Medicare enrollment, benefits and other helpful tools. The Long-Term Care Planning link provides a variety of services and supports that can inform you about health or personal care options that your parents may need covered over an extended period of time.

Additionally, you will want to check into your local Area Agency on Aging, as they offer many local services.

There isn’t one right way to attack this new, demanding venture you and your siblings have undertaken, Elaine, but significant resources are available. You aren’t alone as a caregiver. Millions of adult children are wrestling with the same issues, and there is help available.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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