Celebrating the life-changing work of family caregivers

Jeanne Leyden is director of Adult Family Care, the Adult Foster Care program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services

Recognition for a job well done is very important. That is why I like to thank a very special group of people for all that they do, as part of Caregiver Appreciation Month each November.

They typically don’t get a lot of attention, but family caregivers are everywhere. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of Americans provide some level of unpaid care for another adult. Whether it’s running errands, providing transportation, or hands-on assistance, the common thread is giving time to meet the needs of a loved one. It’s a very beautiful thing.

My program recently had the pleasure of recognizing an outstanding caregiver named Robert, who stepped up to help his grandmother return home after she had a stroke. When we talked with him about that decision, he said it was an easy one, saying she had taken care of him when he was young, and now he was returning the favor. He also spoke about the importance of finding helpful resources when he was thrust into that role, saying he wished he had connected with us sooner.

With that in mind, I would advise family caregivers seeking guidance to contact their local elder services agency. Elder Service agencies specialize in helping people Age in Place, but they also typically can help people connect with programs that assist family caregivers. Many of these programs are free and can accessed by contacting the agency and asking for information about caregiving resources. Common examples include:

Family Caregiver Support, offers caregivers information about services and provides educational programs and short-term individual or family consultation. This program is available for caregivers of adults 60 and over, caregivers helping people with dementia, and people 60-and-over who are caring for minors or family members with developmental disabilities.

Adult Foster Care, provides training and compensation for family caregivers who are providing daily assistance for eligible adults. This program is available for people who are age 16 and over, who are MassHealth eligible and cannot live alone due to medical diagnosis.

Dementia resources, such as Savvy Caregiver training and memory cafes.  

Your local elder services agency might not have an exact match for your needs, but it’s good to know your options. I’ve seen countless times where the right program was life changing for a family trying to provide the best care at home. And really, that’s what it’s all about.

My thanks again to all the family caregivers out there.

Jeanne Leyden is Director of Adult Family Care, an Adult Foster Care program that helps families provide the best care at home across the Greater Boston, North Shore, and Merrimack Valley areas. For more information, visit adultfamilycare.org or call 617-440-0987