Family Caregiving Program Gives Frail Elders Community Care Choices

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Caregiver Homes, in partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has developed an innovative approach to helping frail elders who choose to live at home do so – even if they require daily assistance more often provided in an institutional setting. The MA Caring Homes program allows family (and non-family) caregivers to provide 24/7 care to their elder – providing a community choice option not available to many older and disabled Americans.

When her elderly mother, Helen, could no longer care for herself in her own home, Mary Ellen Quinn became her full-time caregiver. Her mother has lived with her for three years, and Mary Ellen provides her extensive daily assistance with personal care activities such as bathing and dressing, manages her medications and all other aspects of her daily life and medical needs.

Mary Ellen is one of a growing number of family caregivers who has left a full-time job to fulfill a commitment to an aging parent. “I never wanted her to have to go into a nursing home”, said Quinn, “so I left my job to care for her”. Throughout the United States, family members are caring for their aging loved ones, and providing informal, unpaid help on a regular basis. More than 22 million strong, family caregivers average 20 hours per week providing support to an elder, and many decide to reduce their work hours or, like Quinn, leave their jobs altogether.

Caregiver Homes, a division of Seniorlink in Boston, MA, has designed and implemented a program designed to serve frail elders in the community, and has partnered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide payment to eligible family caregivers, as well as non-family caregivers, through the MA Caring Homes program. The program is designed for elders who meet the eligibility criteria for nursing home placement, and who are over the age of 60, and want to continue living in the community rather than transition to a nursing home.

Under this program, caregivers are paid a daily rate to carry out a Plan of Care developed by a team of professionals, and all caregivers receive training and guidance from a Registered Nurse and a Social Worker. The state has recently expanded community care options for elders and disabled adults by passing the “Equal Choices” bill. Caregiver Homes also partners with other eldercare programs, including Senior Care Organizations, offering this program to their members.

Quinn has been involved for almost a year. “Both my mother and I have benefited greatly”, she said. “The financial support has given me great comfort, and I break even now on my living and housing expenses. The professionals from Caregiver Homes that we work with have given me constant support, both over the telephone and through regular home visits, and they have been our advocates since we entered this program”.

Through Caregiver Homes, all potential caregivers, including family members, complete an interview and credentialing process- a personal interview, home assessment and background checks for all residents of the household over the age of 18. Caregiver Homes provides initial orientation and training, as well as continuing education to all caregivers, and is in constant contact with all caregivers.

“Our primary goals are to assist elders to ‘age in place’ in the community, and to live in a family-oriented setting. The Caregiver Homes program combines housing with clinical services so that the elder is maintained in a safe, responsive living environment”, said Morreale-Steele. “And we have the ability to involve family caregivers who have already made the choice, or would like to make that commitment to their parents and relatives. We can relieve their financial stress and support them in their role as family caregivers”.

For Quinn, the program has given her that opportunity. “My mother was recently in the hospital, and she was so happy to return back home”, said Quinn. “I know that I am providing her the best care possible right now, and I wouldn’t consider any other alternative”.

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Linda Morreale-Steele, RN
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