November 22, 2011
By Greg Link, Aging Services Program Specialist, U.S. Administration on Aging
Are you concerned about the well being of a family member or loved one? Do you assist a friend or family member with tasks like bill paying, transportation, grocery shopping, house cleaning, or more complex hands-on care? Do you need help to balance the demands of a job, your family and caring for a loved one? Do you need a short break from the stresses of providing care? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone and you just may be a family caregiver.
Like most family caregivers, you took on this role willingly, because you care and because you know that without the assistance you provide, your loved one might not be able to remain at home or be independent. But, like many family caregivers, you also know it can be difficult to ask for help or know where to go to find assistance or get a break. When family caregivers do reach out for help, they often encounter a complex array of programs and services offering assistance to both themselves and those for whom they provide care.
The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) was established by Congress in 2000 as part of the Older Americans Act. It is the first Federal program specifically designed to meet the unique and varied needs faced by family caregivers. Whether you are a 49 year old daughter caring for your parent who is over the age of 60 or are a family caregiver of an individual under the age of 60 who has early onset dementia or a grandparent or other relative over age 55 who has stepped in to care for grandchildren under age 18, the NFCSP may be able to assist you. For the past eleven years, the Aging Services Network – a nationwide network of state and area agencies on aging, Tribal and Native organizations, local service providers, and thousands of volunteers – led by the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA), has been working to develop programs and services in every state and community to support family caregivers.
Today, through the NFCSP and other programs created by states and communities, family caregivers are able to obtain information about available programs and services in their communities; receive assistance accessing those services; participate in support groups, counseling and caregiver education programs; or have a temporary break from their caregiving duties. Studies have shown these services can reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, and stress and support family caregivers’ desire to keep their loved ones at home for longer periods of time and at costs far below that of nursing homes or other institutional settings.
Since the NFCSP’s creation, AoA and the Aging Network have made tremendous strides in developing multi-faceted and flexible programs to respond to the unique and often rapidly changing needs of family caregivers. In 2009, the Aging Network provided nearly 6 million hours of respite to more than 62,000 family caregivers and helped nearly 600,000 caregivers navigate the system of long-term services and supports to find additional programs and services in their communities. Of those caregivers served, 89 percent indicated that these supportive services helped them be a better caregiver and 77 percent said services helped them provide care and avoid more costly nursing home placement for longer periods of time.
If you are one of the more than 42 million family caregivers in the U.S. who provides assistance to another adult with a physical limitation, the NFCSP may be the community-based resource to enable you to navigate the long-term services and supports system and find the break you need to continue in your role. To learn more about the programs and services available in your community, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or visit www.eldercare.gov.
1) Administration on Aging: National Family Caregiver Support Program