A recent report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded that there’s more to caring for the older adult population than services and support for aging individuals. An equally urgent need is resources for the family caregiver who is so integral to their care.
The report found that nearly 18 million Americans care for a relative older than 65. And that those providing support are often thrust into the family caregiving role without the preparation, services, support and information they need. The Academies said “the need to recognize and support caregivers is among the most significant challenges” facing our exploding elderly population. They urged, “Supporting family caregivers should be an integral part of the nation’s collective responsibility for caring for its older adult population.”
For so many, taking on the role of family caregiver is uncharted territory. But with millions of others who have navigated that territory, there are plenty of resources from professionals and peers who know it well.
As we continue to recognize National Family Caregivers Awareness Month, FirstLight has assembled a collection of a dozen of the most useful online caregiving resources. These resources can help family caregivers ask the right questions, find a supportive community and reduce some of the stress and uncertainty that naturally come with the family caregiver role.
AARP provides one of the most comprehensive websites for family caregivers. It addresses issues directly related to serving as a family caregiver, such as planning, organization and caregiving tips. It caters to first-time caregivers with specialized resources. And it provides insight about other related issues caregivers should think about, like benefits and insurance, legal and financial issues and self-care.
AgingCare.com is a website, but also a community for family caregivers. It focuses on the exchange of ideas with and answers to questions from a panel of knowledgeable professionals, experts and other caregivers. The site also provides ratings and information about assisted living, senior living and in-home care. Its core services include an information exchange forum, support groups and a robust search feature to help family caregivers find facilities, providers and additional resources.
One of the first comprehensive online resources for aging, caring.com remains a leading destination for family caregivers seeking information and support as they care for a loved one. The site’s mission is “to help the helpers.” Resources are designed to help family caregivers make better decisions, save time and money and feel less alone in their caregiving journeys. The site includes support groups, as well as a variety of resources and ratings for assisted living, senior living and in-home care providers. It also includes countless articles about aging in place, health conditions, caregiving and more.
Caregiver Action Network (CAN)
CAN is a leading organization for family caregivers, working to help improve their quality of life. The CAN website includes an extensive toolbox with articles, how-tos and videos about specific caregiving issues. It also includes a forum where family caregivers can connect and get advice from peers.
eXtension provides research and resources for local government cooperative extension programs, which use scientific, community-based activities to help improve people’s lives. While the organization works primarily with professionals, its website has an area specifically for family caregivers. And it contains some resources – like information about disaster preparedness and military family caregiving – that aren’t easily found elsewhere. The site also includes caregiving webinars and an “Ask the Expert” feature that allows users to submit caregiving questions, as well as search and view answers to previous questions.
Family Caregiver Alliance
The Family Caregiver Alliance is a community-based nonprofit organization specifically addressing the needs of family members and friends providing long-term care for loved ones at home. Among the many resources the Alliance provides is its Family Care Navigator. This tool provides a state-by-state online guide to help caregivers identify resources in their communities. It includes referrals to providers of legal help and advocacy, services for family caregivers, living accommodations, assistance with living at home, support for specific diseases, government programs and more.
Medicare Caregiver Resources
Among the many things family caregivers must navigate are healthcare expenses and insurance. With Medicare providing the funding for so many healthcare services for older adults, it’s important that family caregivers understand what’s covered – and what’s not. The Caregiver Resources section of the Medicare website provides information, stories and newsletters about taking care of someone with Medicare.
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)
Area Agencies on Aging are local organizations that are expert on all aspects of aging. Community-based, these organizations are focused on helping older adults and their caregivers access local education and resources. n4a represents the 622 Area Agencies on Aging across the United States. The organization’s website includes the tool “Find Aging Resources in Your Area,” which lets users search by zip code for agencies in their communities.
National Caregivers Library
The National Caregivers Library is a clearinghouse for free information and tools for caregivers. It includes hundreds of articles and topic-specific resources. And it also provides access to elements that can’t be easily found elsewhere, including forms and checklists to help caregivers with everything from care and meal planning to medication management and much more.
Next Step In Care
The Next Step In Care website was created specifically for caregivers who are coordinating care of chronically ill loved ones at home — and managing various medical resources like physicians, rehabilitation providers and hospitals. The purpose of the site is to help ensure that transitions in care – moving patients from one setting (like a hospital) to another (like their homes) – are safe and smooth. The site includes guides to help family caregivers more proactively work with healthcare providers to ensure the best care and treatment for their loved ones. It also provides guides for first-time family caregivers, as well as how-tos for working with hospitals, rehabilitation centers and home care providers.
Today’s Caregiver was the first national magazine dedicated to caregivers. Today, the publication maintains a website of extensive resources for family caregivers. The site includes links to magazine articles, a variety of newsletters, a store for purchasing books and other caregiving resources, recipes and links to local organizations. It also includes “Channels,” which connect caregivers with resources about everything from long-distance caregiving to specific diseases. The site’s Book Club recommends the best reads for everything related to family caregiving. And its “Caretips” forum enables caregivers to read and share their best learnings and insights about being a family caregiver.
U.S. Administration on Aging Eldercare Locator
The Eldercare Locator provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging is a hyperlocal resource to connect family caregivers to help right in their communities. Zip-code searches can provide users with referrals not only to local aging organizations, but also to financial assistance, food and nutrition programs, insurance, in-home services, housing, transportation and more. An online chat function also connects users to a live expert for answering questions.
One of the most comprehensive listings of resources for older adults and their family caregivers is provided by the Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregiving, an organization supporting both professional and family caregivers. The Caregiver Resources section of the website includes descriptions and links to more than 100 organizations with resources ranging from general caregiving information to guides about specific diseases.
More Support, from FirstLight
Caregiving can be complicated. But family caregivers don’t have to do it alone. If you need support and advice on your caregiving journey, FirstLight can help. Our Just Ask FirstLight service connects you to an expert who can answer your questions about caregiving and guide you to additional resources.