Matthew Gallardo
Matthew Gallardo

Being a caregiver is a selfless and rewarding act, yet it can be very daunting as well. Many times the best care comes from a recharged and supported caregiver who has formed an expanded care network. Therefore, it’s important for families to create a strong caregiver circle to make caregiving more manageable and sustainable.

Caregiving resources

There are a number of strategies and resources to lighten the load for caregivers facing burnout. Most importantly, caregivers must take care of themselves. One cannot provide care for another if they themselves are not physically, mentally, and emotionally well. Additionally, they need to accept and seek help from others including other family members, friends, and professionals.

Engaging or hiring professional assistance comes in many forms, including but not limited to:

Nonmedical home care is a great way to supplement the “heavy lifting” that primary caregivers often provide. They can assist with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, medication monitoring and even one-on-one companionship. Respite care provides short term breaks for caregivers ranging from a few hours to a month or more. Home modification, durable medical equipment and technology are also becoming more common by creating a safer home environment through emergency call systems, visual monitoring and simply making the home more handicapped accessible and safe.

However, there is a particular resource from this list that is often overlooked and undervalued. This hidden gem is Adult Day Services. In general terms, adult day services provide care and companionship for older adults who need assistance or supervision during the day. These programs offer relief to family members and caregivers which allows them to go to work, run errands, or simply time to relax knowing their loved one is being cared for and safe.

Affordable, flexible and stimulating

One of the greatest advantages adult day programs offer is its affordability. When compared to other forms of assistance, the median cost is very reasonable. According to the Genworth Financial 2015 Cost of Care Survey, the average annual median cost of adult day programs nationally is $17,904, compared to the annual cost of assisted living/personal care which sits at $43,200 a year. Adult day programs can also be much more cost effective than if a family was to hire nonmedical caregivers for the same number of hours per day coming to the home. The national median daily cost of adult day is $69, which typically provides 8 hours of care, medication administration, a meal, snacks, activities and socialization. Furthermore, most states offer financial assistance through waiver programs and Medicaid.

Adult day programs are also very flexible. Primary caregivers can have their loved one attend adult day as many as five days a week or as little as one day per week. And many providers across the country offer full-day and half-day programs. They also have extended hours to allow for early drop-off and late pick up, especially for those caregivers that have long work days.

Adult day programs fill a niche for many older adults who continue to live and focus on aging in place in their own home. For many there’s a part of staying in one’s own home that can actually be detrimental, which is the lack of socialization and stimulation, particularly with their own age bracket and peers. For caregivers and families who have a loved one living at home with them, quite often they can still feel isolated and, in certain cases, trapped in the home. Adult day programs are a great way for these loved ones to still get out, interact with others in similar situations and participate in activities such as exercise, cooking, arts and crafts, special interests and speakers, and even religious ceremonies.

This gem of a program provides a great balance for the caregiver and loved one. Again it fortifies the ability to stay at home, but gets them out of the house on a daily basis to a caring and stimulating environment, but happily at the end of the day, they come home and sleep in their bed, in their own home.

Matthew J. Gallardo, BASW, CCP, is Director of Community Engagement and Coaching at Messiah Lifeways.